KARACHI: Violent past of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), with allegations of using torture as a way of containing political foes, makes it difficult for them to gain sympathy from the public, but the state should not use the same methods while dealing with suspects under custody, said chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Zohra Yusuf while speaking to Dawn on Thursday.
Messages of sympathy poured in from all quarters for the family of Aftab Ahmed, 42, coordinator to MQM deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar, who died in the custody of the Pakistan Rangers on Tuesday. There was, however, a parallel argument that questioned being sympathetic to ‘criminals’.
Ms Yusuf said: “Such arguments take place whenever increasing the severity of punishment overtakes humanitarian values [which] take a back seat. We have to eventually understand that crime does not end by increasing the severity of punishment. It bifurcates and increases further.”
Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed said: “Unfortunately, in MQM’s case, there is a shared perception that the problems they face is largely of their own making. That said, regardless of what private actors do, it needs to be looked at whether the state should get involved in murder. Ultimately, the state should be held at a higher standard.”
Advocate Faisal Siddiqi, however, argued that reliance on torture and encounter killing gained acceptance among the people when there was no other solution in sight.
“Pakistan is not a welfare state, where immediate problems of the people related to unemployment, access to justice and prison reforms are given importance. In the absence of that, people have accepted killings of suspected criminals for peace and order in the city,” he added.
He said: “It is an understood fact that accountability is difficult in cases where the paramilitary and the armed forces are directly involved. Also, it gets difficult for people to sympathise with such groups or suspects dying due to torture because of the general belief that people who live by violence, die by violence.”
Even then ‘instant killing’ is not a long-term solution, said Barrister Ahmed. “You get better law and order in the short term, but such tactics are not feasible in the long term, as they create a circle of violence which is difficult to get out of,” he argued.
Advocate Siddiqi added, “We should not live in a dream world. We are caught between a bad and worse solution for the city. Considering the situation, people believe this is the best bad solution the state has at the moment.”
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2016