ISLAMABAD: The National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) has said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is not allowing them access to its detention centres which is a violation of law.
After the death of a professor in NAB’s custody and the allegations about CCTV cameras in lock-ups had surfaced, a letter was written (in December 2018) to the anti-graft body with the request to allow a team of the commission to inspect the places of detention, said NCHR chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan while addressing a ceremony that was held at a hotel on Wednesday to launch a report.
He said the commission, which was established under the National Commission for Human Rights Act, 2012, was mandated to work for promotion and protection of human rights with the powers to take suo motu action in cases of human rights violation.
The NCHR chairman said NAB did not bother to give a reply to its letter despite the fact that law authorised the commission to visit all detention and entrapment centres across the country.
Anti-graft body silent on the national commission’s request for visit to its detention centre after a custodial death in December
“We want to investigate the allegations levelled by Prof Kamran to see if those are correct. We are a civilised nation and we have a constitution of the country. Pakistan was made by a lawyer [Quaid-i-Azam] and here the rule of law needs to be observed. The current situation is denial to the rule of law. Moreover, we need support of civil society to raise voice against it,” he said.
Former vice chancellor of Punjab University Prof Mujahid Kamran, in an interview, had alleged that there were CCTV cameras in the washrooms of NAB’s lock-up. Later former chief executive officer of Sargodha University’s sub-campus Professor Mian Javed died in NAB’s custody.
Justice Chohan said it was unfortunate that in Pakistan there was no separate law on torture. “During the tenure of the former government, I sent a report highlighting the issue of torture to the United Nations and had to comment over it but I was not allowed by the government to go abroad. There is need to make a separate law regarding torture.
“The issue of missing persons is also a kind of torture. The Quaid struggled for human rights, throughout his life, and Pakistan was made to enforce human rights but here minorities and sects are suffering,” said the NCHR chairman.
Report on torture launched
On the occasion, a report prepared by a civil society organisation Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) with the collaboration of the NCHR was launched. Titled “Police Torture in Faisalabad”, the report stated that for victims of Punjab police torture in the Faisalabad district, courts had to direct the relevant authorities to prepare medico-legal certificates. It said 1,424 medic-legal documents were prepared between 2006 and 2012 on court orders but action was not taken against a single police officer. The NCHR also investigated around 350 cases in six months.
Former Senator Farhatullah Babar said, “Whenever the human right issue is taken up at international forums, the government states that there is no room of torture in Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow it. However, the report shows that here people are tortured and no one can take action over it.”
He said, “As detail of cases was also mentioned in the report, I observed that Anti-Narcotics Force did not bother to give reply in one case. Same is the case with NAB and it shows that mighty institutions consider themselves above the law.”
Mr Babar suggested to the NCHR chairman to also write letters for visits to all centres across the country. “I tried my best while I was in the parliament to visit such centres, but failed. You will also fail but that is how matter will come into writing. And one day someone will ask why that direction was not implemented,” he said.
Barrister Sara Bilal said the report was completed in almost 30 months and it was astonishing that though more than 1,400 cases were investigated not a single police official was punished. “It had not been possible to investigate the cases without having support of the NCHR,” she said.
NCHR member Chaudhry Shafique said the aim of the report was to eradicate torture from the country and ensure strict response of the government over violations of human rights.
He said it was not easy to investigate against the police but it was ensured that all the detail of cases, even detail of wounds, be made part of the study.
An official of NAB, requesting anonymity, said that after the allegation levelled by Prof Kamran, not only the media was invited to visit the lock-up but his family and a delegation of Punjab University teachers also visited the lock-up.
“All the allegations were baseless and no one has ever lodged a complaint about the presence of CCTV cameras in washrooms. We have great respect for law and we have never violated rules,” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2019