People have no protection against torture
KARACHI: They sat at a distance looking at the group of lawyers discussing the litigation of torture cases at the event organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. They came in hope that someone would be able to help them, a couple in traditional clothes standing out in the crowd of black suited men.
They are the mother and father of Faraz Baloch, 26, one of the many innocent people picked up by security agencies. He was picked while on duty at the Lyari Medical College on February 10. There is still no trace of him. The couple left the hall dejectedly, after realising the event was to discuss, not to act.
“The root cause should be addressed. When we talk about issues, we talk about their cosmetic surgery, not the actual cause,” said professor Akmal Wasim, while discussing how to litigate torture cases in Pakistan. According to him, in Pakistan there is only a literal interpretation, there is no morality of the law.
Uzair Kayani, faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, spoke about the application of international torture laws in Pakistan.
“The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) was ratified because the European Union wasn’t giving Pakistan GSP Plus status and Pakistan was in economic turmoil,” he said.
“It was given when Pakistan signed all these international treaties. Hence, there was an economic motive behind it, not a social motive,” he explained. He said that this is probably the reason why there is little to no implementation of anti-torture laws in Pakistan.
Talking about the reservation Pakistan had while signing the UNCAT treaty, he said that Pakistan refused to recognise the committee against torture’s investigation team, so the team is unable to visit Pakistan and monitor the situation. Moreover, these treaties can only be cited as persuasive law and not binding law.
Discussing the lack of legislation regarding torture, Wasim said that water-boarding is regarded as professional interrogation here, which further validates how desperately the system needs to be changed.
Kayani discussed the only article in the constitution that mentions torture, which is Article 14. He said that it fails to define torture and prohibits it in case of extracting information but not in other cases.
“The truth is we don’t have any protection, despite signing international treaties,” said Kayani. “We will have to pass domestic legislation otherwise this will never be implemented in Pakistan,” he predicted.