Pakistan’s impunity for crimes against journalists

On Global Impunity Index of Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP), Pakistan ranks as the ninth worst country in the world in which journalists are murdered and no one is brought to justice.

More than 70 journalists and media workers have lost their lives since 2001 while pursuing their duties in Pakistan – 47 of whom were deliberately targeted and murdered for practicing their profession. Another 194 journalists were injured in gun attacks while 40 others were detained by law enforcement agencies and tried for different crimes.

The most ironic part of the report is that perpetrators in all these murder cases, but two, were never convicted.

Pakistani journalists are not only targeted by militants, political, religious, ethnic groups, but also by the law enforcement agencies.

One of the much talked about cases of journalists targeted include the case of Salem Shahzad. Four year back, he was found dead in Islamabad after he reported on the infiltration of terrorist groups in the military. The investigation commission’s report on Saleem Shahzad's murder that followed afterwards failed to ensure accountability or even name the perpetrators.  An investigation commission report on the assasination attempt on Hamid Mir last year, one of Pakistan's most renowned journalists, remains pending and the proceedings are shrouded in mystery. 

According to the Balochistan Union of Journalists 41 journalists have been targeted in Balochistan in different incidents since 2008. The province is literally an information black hole with virtually no news reaching out to masses through media.

1914 hours
Monday 2 November 2015

When rape victims resort to self-immolation

 A girl, only in her late teens, self-immolated this week in Muzaffargarh after police refused to act on her claim she was gang-raped by police. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died of her injuries.

In April this year, Amna Bibi, another 18-year-old girl from Muzaffargarh district died after setting herself ablaze in protest against a police report that led to the release of her rapist.

Last year, a woman from Dera Gazi Khan set herself on fire as a protest against the attitude of the Punjab police for setting her rapists free.

During the last couple of years, the crime rate in Pakistan, specifically women, has increased to a great extent. This can be seen in various categories, such as rape, sexual abuse and murder. A report released by War Against Rape (WAR) group highlights that of 60 reported cases of rape, 20% involved police officers. According to Women's Action Forum, up to seventy-two percent of women in custody in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused. 
In a country like Pakistan where there are only a few laws protecting women; and bodies like Council of Islamic Ideology that seem obsessed with limiting women’s capacities as house-bound objects and refuse to put any focus on laws that govern child marriage and rape –  enjoy so much influence in the society.

It is high time that the state fulfils its primary responsibility of protecting the lives of women of Pakistan as equal citizens as per constitutional mandate. The whole system of the police in Pakistan needs to be revamped and reformed based on new laws involving women in line with the international standards.

2145 hours
Monday 26 October 2015

Police brutality

Police brutality in Haripur recently led a 28 year old to take his life, in a much talked about torture case in the media. The man’s only fault was that he was the brother of a robbery suspect.  The police took him into custody when they could not trace his brother and tortured him so, that he eventually resorted to committing suicide.

Earlier this month in Rawalpindi, a similar case of police torture emerged where a 17-year-old, Imtiaz, was detained along with six other youngsters on charges wondering in an elite area late night. The six boys were freed by police after taking bribe whereas, Imtiaz was kept in illegal detention as police demanded PKR 50,000 bribe from the boy for his release. The boy denied the demand, saying his father is a poor hand cart-owner and he cannot pay such a hefty amount. He was mercilessly tortured.

According to Individualland and Open Society Foundation report, around 15000 suspects were taken into police, locked up or shifted to private torture cells in last 14 years. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that poorest of the poor and marginalised are the most frequent victims of police torture.

Pakistan has ratified the United Nations ‘Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ in 2010. Five years down the road, nothing has changed on the ground.

Interrogation to collect details about a case can be achieved without manhandling and torture by the police, which is a breach of basic human rights. Given the torture cases, barely lead to convictions, law-enforcement agencies can instead invest in forensic investigators and psychologists to collect information, if there is a comittement in ratifying basic human rights for all civilians.

But it's a shame that like colonial times, ‘investigation’, ‘remand’ and ‘evidence’ still remain the terms that are synonymous with torture in our criminal justice system. Land of the free, it is!

2138 hours
Monday 28 September 2015