Custodial torture

The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2022, was recently passed by parliament, criminalising custodial torture. This is one of the best moves by any government in recent years in Pakistan, and has come at a time when such issues are under the spotlight owing to events and statements involving opposition politicians who have claimed to have faced custodial torture.

There are two points that are of major concern. First, if the politicians, who are powerful and influential, claim to have undergone such treatment, and if their claims are correct, we can just imagine what the common man goes through in police stations and other detention centres across the country.

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We all know about it, but prefer to keep quiet, and justify it by taking it as a matter of routine. But we do not care or try to even imagine what mental trauma the person who is physically or mentally tortured has to go through for the rest of his life.

In most cases, such victims cannot share the details of the atrocities faced even with their families. It is high time that each and every one of us stopped taking custodial torture as a matter of routine, and started speaking out against this inhuman and cruel investigation method.

Second, legislation is as good or as bad, as effective or as ineffective as its implementation. No piece of legislation can serve the purpose in the absence of its proper implementation. Sadly, as far as our police force is concerned, ‘physical remand’ means permission to torture the accused to extricate the ‘truth’.

I hope that the government will initiate a proper process to implement the said law, and will try to eliminate any loophole detected during its execution. The police might take an accused to a different ‘drawing room’ before bringing him to the police station. This, and other such attempts at bypassing the law, should be kept an eye on.

Perhaps a civil person in charge of the detainees in police stations and other such agencies, especially the jails, may help reduce the problem to a great extent. People need to regain their lost faith and trust in police, and it can only be achieved with sincere efforts by the force itself.


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