ASIA: Democracy is the best revenge
July 23, 2012
ASIA: Democracy is the best revenge
Speech delivered by Pakistani Senator Saeed Ghani as part of the deliberations in the Meeting of Asian Parliamentarians in the Asian Alliance against Torture and Ill-treatment.
On Sunday afternoon, the Pakistani Senator, Saeed Ghani, affiliated with the Pakistan People's Party delivered this speech as part of the Meeting of Asian Parliamentarians against Torture and Ill-treatment. Eight Parliamentarians from a number of Asian countries and several prominent human rights activists are participating in the four day meeting.
I wish to thank Mr. John Joseph Clancey for chairing this conference on torture and ill-treatment under the auspices of Asian Human Rights Commission and RCT. I am also thankful to the AHRC for inviting me here to this conference.
I am a Senator from the ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples' Party, which has passed through political victimisation by the extra constitutional forces, particularly from martial law governments. During these periods and during the periods of nondemocratic governments hundreds of our workers were severely tortured and died the custody. Our leader, the founder of our party and former Prime Minister, Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was tortured during his detention and hanged to death by a military government on the crime of putting the country on the rule of law and turning it into a democratic country. Our leader Benazir Bhutto, twice elected Prime Minister, was also tortured severely when she was only 24 years old and at that time she was leading the movement against military dictatorship. (She has since been assassinated).
The incumbent president of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari and the leader of the party was also physically tortured during the government of Mr Nawaz Sharif 1997-1999, when police officers cut his tongue during police custody to confess that he and his wife, Benazir Bhutto, were corrupt. But one can imagine the structure of the state which mostly depended on the menace of torture that the president himself cannot follow his case of torture in the country. The main perpetrator of torture, a high police officer, was provided protection by a provincial government and the higher courts failed to ask the Punjab government to hand over the perpetrator of torture to the police of Sindh Province where the complaint were lodged.
The courts even the higher courts do not see torture as a crime but help in the perpetuation of torture by ignoring the complaints of torture in custody. The examples of such ignorance of torture by the courts are of the cases of disappearances. It is observed that when a man is released from his disappearance he recorded his statement before the courts and complained about his torture the higher courts just ignored the matter and never tried to implicate the law enforcing agencies that held him incommunicado and tortured him in illegal detention. The weaknesses of the courts have also helped the torture to perpetuate in the country.
Torture is used in the country to get the confessional statements, for bribery and political victimisation. Even the chief justice of Pakistan was tortured when he was dismissed by General Musharraf. But after his restoration he cannot go against the police officers. The police officers are promoted.
There are many ways of torture in the country like, hanging upside down, psychological torture, making horse, keeping persons blind folded for many months, the splitting of legs, called as cheera, piercing of iron nails in the nose, taking out nails, putting on the ice slabs, putting blocks on the head and hammering them and other types of tortures.
We are seriously concerned with the systematic torture and ill-treatment in custody and are working on criminalising torture as in Pakistan there is no law against the torture in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The word 'hurt' is used in the PPC in place of torture, which in no way is the substitute of torture. The constitution of Pakistan in its article 14 B the torture is mentioned but it is even not prohibited. It says that no one may be subjected to torture but the definition of torture is unavailable.
Since we are in power since 2008 we have been trying to make reforms in the laws and to uphold the human rights and the norms which can lead to the rule of law. The government has made the 18th, 19th & 20th amendments in the constitution through which all those ordinances and amendments were withdrawn from the constitution which was made by the different military governments. The power of the central government was decentralised and provinces have been given maximum autonomy even for making the legislation. The ban on trade union activities was abolished and freedom of assembly, association and movement was restored. The judiciary was restored and it was made independent in its true form after being snatched by the military rulers. The freedom of expression is fully allowed as according to the international norms. There is no restriction on the freedom of media which has no precedent in the history of Pakistan. No political victimisation of opponents, not a single political prisoner is in the jails of Pakistan and this is never happened in the history rather our own sitting ministers and parliamentarians facing courts.
The government of Pakistan has ratified in 2010 the ICCPR, ICESR and the Convention against Torture (CAT). A new era of respect of human rights were introduced. Though some undemocratic forces tried to stop this process by making several reservations on CAT but the government realised and withdrew the reservations in 2011. This is land mark initiative from the government on its determination to respect the human rights.
Since the inception of the government the parliament have made many laws particularly on the rights of the women, workers etc to protect their rights like:
1) Domestic Violence Prevention & Protection
Act 2009 (Aug 2009).
2) The Family Courts (amendment) Act 2008 (Aug 2009).
3) The Guardians & Wards (amendment) Act 2008 (Aug 2009).
4) The Public Defenders & Legal Aid Office Act 2009 (Jan 2010).
5) The Protection against the Harassment of Women at Work Place Act (Jan 2010).
6) Removal from Services (special powers) Ordinance 2000 (repeal) (Jan 2010).
7) Benazir Income Support Programme Act 2010 (June 2010).
8) The Sacked Employees Reinstatement Act 2010 (Oct 2010).
9) The Prevention of Anti women practices. (Oct 2011).
10) The National Commission for status of Women Bill (Jan 2012).
11) Industrial Relations Act 2012 (March 2012).
12) The National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012 (May 2012).
In all these legislations the most important is the formation of an independent & powerful NCHR. First time in history of Pakistan the government/Intelligence agencies are made answerable to a strong NCHR. The higher Judiciary has failed to deliver much in the cases of disappeared persons, allegedly the army personals involved in these abductions.
Since August 2009 this practice has been stopped and our Government is trying to amend the laws to abolish the death sentence but we are facing strong resistance from extremist groups, right wing parties and the judiciary as well.
The present government restored the judges sacked by General Musharraf. Judiciary is independent as much as they ousted the elected Prime Minister, they are free to appoint judges of their own choice and the Government has no role in whole process.
The present government is facing problems due to Judicial Activism (even few people calling it Judicial Martial Law), judiciary exceeding its limits over the Parliament's authority and trying to prove that Parliament is more Supreme and Judgements of Supreme Court can overrule the articles of Constitution. We realise that in past history of our country Judiciary remained allied with Army rulers and usurpers but we hope that we will overcome the habits of legacies of dictators.
Where is the
The present government and parliament is doing wonderful work as far as legislation is concerned but the problem is proper implementation of the law. The reasons of non implementation is regular interventions from supra-constitutional forces which strengthen the right wingers (those not in majority and always lost in elections). These mindsets are sitting everywhere in Judiciary, Civil and Military Bureaucracy, Media etc and are not ready to accept the real democracy to flourish, they always remain busy to derail and defame democracy and democratic forces but this time they seem a bit weaker as they could not succeed in their motives in last 4-1/2 years to dislodge the present government despite of intrigues and conspiracies.
Proposed Law on Torture
We had a meeting in Karachi a few days back to discuss the proposed law on torture and also discussed it with few other senior parliamentarians and legal experts to further finalise the draft to introduce in the Parliament for approval. We are in touch with AHRC friends and getting their support in terms of information about the laws in other countries to introduce a better law in Pakistan. I, on behalf of my Party and Government, commit before this August House that we will try all our best to save the children from menace of torture.
Thank you very much
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.