PAKISTAN: Love marriage greeted by the torture of a family; one girl is abducted by a Punjab minister

Former President of National Students Federation
Former President of National Students Federation

KNOWLEDGE                              STRUGGLE                                   VICTORY

I am extremely disturbed to hear of the criminal harm done to one family by officers at Airport Police Station, Rawalpindi, along with one member of the Punjab Assembly and his relatives. According to the information I have received, six members of a family, including three women and a young girl, were arrested on the instructions of MPA Iftekhar Ahmed Khan Baloch in retaliation to a love marriage. All have been severely tortured by police in custody, with one man unable to walk. A seventh member of the family, a sixteen-year-old girl, has not been seen or heard of since her arrest, when Baloch took her away in a car. I believe she is in danger of being raped. Two men and one woman remains in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, the others are in hiding and unable to pursue the case of torture and illegal detainment that they have lodged.

According to the reports I have been given, Miss Kulsoom Baloch, 25 married Mr. Fazal Abbas, 29, who is from a less wealthy family, in Sarghodha–Abbass  home city–in a civil court on March 22, 2009.

On April 25 a First Information Report (FIR: a document of complaint) was filed against Abbas at the Airport Police Station in Rawalpindi (Punjab province) by Kulsoom’s brother, Mr Mehmood Ur Rehman, charging Abbas with the girl’s abduction and rape, and the theft of her jewelry and cash.

Early the next morning Baloch, the MPA, with Mehmood Ur Rehman and Kulsoom’s brother-in-law Mr. Nasir Khan Baloch, along with Mr. Basheer, an assistant sub inspector (ASI) and other police officers, raided the house where Kulsoom was staying. She was beaten severely by each member of the raiding party and asked for the address of her husband’s office. Neighbors intervened and Kulsoom managed to escape.

The same group of men then visited the house of her in-laws in Iqbal colony, Sargodha, forcefully entered the home and badly beat the women and girls there, asking again for the address of Abbass’ office. After some time, officers and the MPA arrived at the house with Abbas, who was reportedly bruised and bleeding.

They then forced Abbas and his sisters, Mrs Riffat Rani (wife of Shafiq Dogar); Miss Nadia, 19, who is a national badminton champion; Miss Shazia Riaz, 16; and Miss Nazia, 12, into three private cars. Shazia Riaz was loaded into a car with Iftekhar Ahmed Baloch and has not been seen or heard from since.

At Airport Police Station, Rawalpindi, 400 km away, the reports allege that the three women and Fazal were severely and systematically beaten by Station House Officer (SHO) Mr. Choudhry Safdar and Assistant Sub-Inspector, Mr. Basheer. Basheer reportedly told Nadia that if she were to become his ˜friend”–suggesting some kind of sex act–he would give her certain concessions. The women’s clothing was torn, their hair was pulled and they were thrown against walls. The officers continually asked them where their daughter-in-law Kulsoom was hiding. Baloch, the MPA,also visited the station twice during that period, telling the women that unless they could lead the police to Kulsoom, he would never release Shazia from his personal custody.

After three or four days the women were produced before Mr. Azmat Ullah, a civil judge in Rawalpindi for remand and were charged with aiding the abduction of Kulsoom when she married their brother. Remand was granted, and the judge ignored the girl’s claims that they had been severely tortured. Nadia also tried telling the judge that since she was the national badminton champion he should consider the pride of the nation; he reportedly laughed at her.

In the meantime, on April 28, officers Sat Brana Police Station, Jhang, Punjab arrested Mr. Shafiq Dogar, the husband of Fazal’s elder sister, and charged him with stealing. The case was filed the next day. This police station lies in the electoral constituency of Iftekhar Ahmed Baloch, the MPA. On May 3 Dogar was taken by ASI Basheer of Rawalpindi and two of Kulsoom’s brothers, Mehmood ur Rehaman and Saif ur Rehman to the Airport Police Station, where he was beaten so badly he lost the use of his legs. He believes that they are broken, but has been given no medical care. On May 12 Dogar was produced in a wheel chair before the same civil judge, Mr. Azmat Ullah, who showed the same indifference to his injuries. He was released on bail for charges of theft, but remanded further on a new charge of aiding Kulsoom’s abduction.

After Dogar’s arrest on the 28th his wife was released from custody. Nadia and Nazia were released on bail on May 6, but when their mother, Mrs. Nasrin Akhtar, 50, collected them at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, she was arrested. She was taken to the Airport Police Station and beaten by the same SHO and ASI, and bears the torture marks on her back and hands. She is currently in Adiala jail on the orders of civil judge Azmat Ullah.

The family have filed a case regarding the illegal arrest and torture but the continuous arrest of family members and threats from the Baloch family have sent them into hiding across Pakistan, and they are unable to pursue their case.

I urge Sayyad Yousaf Raza Gillani, the Prime Minster and Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister to immediately intervene into this horrific display of police brutality. That senior police officers can confidently direct and participate in abductions, illegal arrests, arbitrary violence and torture in custody, should be a matter of deep shame to those who operate the system they work within. They must be fired and charged for their crimes.

As well as signing the UN Convention Against Torture in 2008, the Pakistan Penal Code itself is built to protect civilians from the greedy violence of the power hungry; be they parliamentarians, police officers or civilians. The rights enshrined in the constitution include the right to life and liberty, Article 9, the right for detainees to be produced before the court within 24 hours of arrest, Article 10 sub article 2, and the right to dignity and the inviolable privacy of home, 14, sub section (1). Article 14 (2) declares that no person in Pakistan shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence. I suggest that this information be made available in police stations in Pakistan, where it appears that knowledge of the constitution and of basic criminal procedure is lacking. This information should also be provided to those in the civil court of Rawalpindi, where judges such as Mr. Azmat Ullah, seem to operate regardless of the law and at the behest of politicians, with little or no care for broken legs or assaulted women in his court. I suggest that this judge be investigated and disbarred.

Nasreen Akhtar, Fazal Abbas, Shafiq Dogar must be instantly released from Adiala Jail and given the appropriate medical care for the torture sustained in prison. The civilians and parliamentary member responsible for their ordeal must be swiftly charged and tried. I demand that the Punjab provincial government take legal action against MPA Iftekhar Ahmed Khan Baloch for the abuse of his power, and the mockery he has made of his seat. Sixteen-year-old Shazia Abbas must be recovered unharmed from private captivity. All victims must be given protection, compensation and access to justice.

The pople of Pakistan has made  a two years long struggle for the Rule of Law.
I appeal to honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftkhar Muhammad Chauhdri to take a Suo Motto Action, so that the people could know that their blood for the restoration of judges did not go in vain.
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