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PAKISTAN:Absence of rule of law gives impunity to military

August 29, 2011

PAKISTAN: Absence of rule of law provides impunity to military officials

There is an urgent need to bring military officials under the rule of law after a high police officer was tortured to death and army men attacked a police station in broad daylight and beat the policemen.

In the recent days it is observed that officials of the Pakistan army and Para-military have been on a rampage, taking the law into their own hands and have received impunity through pure force. The sad aspect of these incidents is that the print and electronic media are purposely avoiding coverage of the events because of self censorship on the pretext of national security.

In one incident that occurred on August 24 police officers from R.A. Bazar police station, Rawalpindi, Punjab province, arrested two suspected persons from a market place. The men were collecting extortion money and teasing the women. The arrested persons told the police that they were from the army but could not prove their identity. The officers took them to police station but one of the arrested persons managed to escape from police custody. In an astonishing act as the police brought the remaining accused to the station 50 army personnel, under the command of a captain, attacked the police station. They forced their way into the station, severely beat all the policemen present, abducted two police officials and kept them in illegal detention. The abducted officers were also severely tortured in military custody and were finally released four hours later. The whole police station was ransacked and bullets were fired inside the building.

To-date, no action has been taken against the army personnel and the captain. The police just entered the incident in the daily diary and no First Information Report (FIR) was filed because of the involvement of the army. The next day a settlement was reached between the army and police under pressure from higher ranking officials of the army.

In another incident, just three days after the above incident, on August 27, officials of the army tortured to death a Station House Officer (SHO) of the Chacrala police station, Mianwali, Punjab province. Other police officials were also severely injured. The SHO's 'sin' was that he stopped a truck of the Pakistan army's Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for a routine check at the high way. A case was filed but no arrests have been made because of hindrance from the army.

These recent incidents, as well as other incidents during the past six months expose the complete breakdown of the rule of law in the presence of an independent judiciary and parliament. The army firmly believes that it is above the law of the land and never misses an opportunity to thumb their noses at the government whenever it gets the chance. The basic concept of rule of law is totally eroded from the governance which is why, time after time, such incidents take place. The army also exerts pressure on the media, never allowing it to work freely. This is plainly evident by the fact that the aforementioned incidents were down played by the media because of threats and intimidation to media houses and journalists. Many journalists have already been tortured and killed by the army and its intelligence agencies which is a forceful reminder for self censorship.

There are examples of journalists like Saleem Shahzad, Hyatullah, MusaKhel and many from Balochistan who were killed after their disappearances by the powerful intelligence agencies of the army. A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the intelligence agency, the ISI, severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded.

In another case, where a serving colonel of Frontier Corps (FC), a Para-military force, Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Shahzad, was involved in the shooting and killing of two innocent Tajik women in Kharotabad, Balochistan, he was later exonerated of the charge by a tribunal due to pressure of the army and still no action has been taken.

In the cases of disappearances in Balochistan province the family members of victims' submitted evidence before the higher courts including the Supreme Court about the involvement of the army. The FC and ISI have been implicated time and time again in abductions and disappearances but the courts are incapable of taking action against them or bringing them before the law. The courts always order the army and ISI personnel to reply to the charges but showing the utmost arrogance the army has never respected the courts; this in turn shows the impotency of the courts before this powerful institution.

There are many corruption cases against the generals and army institution but the courts are reluctant to put the cases for regular hearing because of threats and intimidations from the army. There is one case that has been pending before the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1998 where in a retired chief of army staff confessed that he himself disbursed huge amounts to different politicians to topple the democracy. The case has never seen the light of the day.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the parliament and judiciary of Pakistan to bring the army and its officials to heal. The military institution must be brought once and for all into the orbit of the rule of law. The officials of the military and Para-military must be prosecuted for acts of torture and murder. The daylight attacks on police stations are a clear indication of the arrogance with which the military treat the judiciary in the country. Until such time as the perpetrators of these crimes are brought before the rule of law there can be no prospect of democracy in Pakistan. It is the non-transferable responsibility of the government of President Zardari to see that this is done.

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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.

Visit our new website with more features at www.humanrights.asia

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