LAHORE: A torture cell operated allegedly by the Gujjarpura station house officer (SHO) along with three constables to keep suspects in custody on the pretext of interrogation was unearthed in the provincial capital on Monday.
Two handcuffed and four other men were recovered from the cell established by the policemen at a local office of the forest department. The cell was unearthed by officials of the anti-corruption department, who were in the field for investigation of a case, an official told Dawn.
He said during their investigation, the anti-corruption officials heard cries, traced them to a building located right in the middle of a jungle and filmed whatever they saw. They found six locked men, including a bedridden man — identified as Amjad — in serious condition due to apparently third-degree torture by the suspected policemen.
In the footage recorded on a mobile phone, Amjad is seen telling the officials that his backbone and hips were severely fractured and that he could not even move on the bed provided to him by the forest department employees on his repeated requests.
Anti-corruption officials discover cell set up in forest dept office, recover six men
He claimed that the suspected police officials entered his house by scaling the boundary walls, dragged his wife and children and then bundled him in a police van without informing him of the reason of his arrest. They brought him to the forest department building a few days back and subjected him to severe torture, which led to the fractures, he claimed.
Amjad further told the officials that he was yet to be apprised of any case lodged against him, alleging that when he asked, the policemen beat him up all night. Instead of taking him to a hospital, they kept him locked in the building, he alleged.
The tales of other captives were no different from Amjad’s.
Irfan Ali said he ran a small make-up and jewellery shop and the policemen picked him up, brought him here and locked him in the building. He was also tortured on asking about the charges against him.
An elderly man, Zafar, claimed that he worked in Parinda Market from where the policemen bundled him in a van and brought him here. He said he was also unaware of any charges or cases lodged against him.
Most captives said the police officials would come over in the night to torture them only.
When the video reached the police high-ups and went viral on social media, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) retired Capt Arif Nawaz took notice and directed Lahore Capital City Police Officer BA Nasir to conduct a probe into the incident. The probe was eventually conducted by a superintendent of police (SP).
The IGP in recent meetings had taken up the issue of torture and deaths in police custody. He had circulated a policy guideline across the province with strict directions to field police officers that he would not tolerate torture of suspects, particularly deaths in police custody.
However, despite these instructions, such incidents continued — two deaths in police custody were reported recently.
The discovery of this ‘torture cell’ brought further embarrassment for the IGP when it was reported that an SHO and three other policemen were operating it to allegedly keep suspects in custody in the name of interrogation.
“I’m shocked to find out the torture cell run by the SHO and the other policemen despite clear standing instructions of the Punjab IGP,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Ismail Kharrak.
He said there was zero tolerance for such illegal and immoral acts, adding that Gujjarpura SHO Muhammad Raza Jafri and other policemen have been suspended from service after they were found guilty in the inquiry conducted by the SP. He said the department would further proceed against them under the rules to fix responsibly on them for committing this illegal act.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2019