To torture deaths under detention is a somewhat common practice amongst our law-enforcement agencies (LEA), but this cannot be justified on any grounds. The death of Aftab Ahmed, a senior member of the MQM, earlier this week has once again brought to light the issue of use of excessive force by our LEAs to extract confessions from detainees. Pakistan is a signatory to Article 2.2 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture. In this case, new lows were reached by the Rangers if the torture marks on Mr Ahmed’s body are anything to go by. Members of his family have told media outlets that his body was also minus fingernails when it was delivered for burial after post-mortem. Mr Ahmed was reportedly picked up from his home on May 1. He was brought to the hospital on May 3 where, according to Rangers officials, he died of cardiac arrest. But the statements made by doctors at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre contradict these claims.
What is encouraging is that with the damning evidence of torture in the public domain, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has ordered an inquiry into the matter. The Rangers have suspended unnamed officials who are suspected of involvement in Mr Ahmed’s death. This is not enough. Those guilty must be punished. Whether there is ever any definitive account of how Mr Ahmed came by his dreadful injuries and who inflicted them on him, must be a very open question. The use of torture by all LEAs is so widespread as to be deemed ubiquitous. Torture in custody is the norm rather than the exception and it can be inflicted on anybody who has been picked up in connection with any alleged offence, major or minor. This is wholly unacceptable in any civilised society, yet so inured is the public to torture in custody as a norm that it is only when a death occurs that it makes the headlines. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms and await the outcome of any inquiry that is conducted into Mr Ahmed’s death. Hopefully, this will discourage our LEAs from indulging in such tactics in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2016.