Senate Human Rights body summons Punjab IG over ‘custodial deaths’

Updated September 10, 2019

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Rahim Yar Khan DPO also called for briefing on death of suspected ATM robber. — DawnNewsTV/File
Rahim Yar Khan DPO also called for briefing on death of suspected ATM robber. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of the recent incidents of custodial deaths, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights has summoned the Punjab inspector general of police on Thursday (Sept 12).

The agenda for the meeting issued by the Senate Secretariat shows that the committee headed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar has also summoned the district police officer (DPO) of Rahim Yar Khan for a briefing on the death of Salahuddin Ayubi, a suspected ATM robber, who died in police custody on Sept 1 within days of his arrest.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Khokhar said that when the meeting of the committee had been convened there was only one incident of custodial death, but now two more incidents from Lahore had been reported. He said the agenda for the meeting would be modified and the senior police officials would also be asked to brief the committee on the alleged custodial deaths of two accused — Aamir Masih and Amjad Ali — in Lahore.

Mr Khokhar expressed concern over the rise in the incidents of custodial deaths and said the committee would play its due role in stopping such happenings.

Rahim Yar Khan DPO also called for briefing on death of suspected ATM robber

Salahuddin Ayubi was arrested by police in Rahim Yar Khan on Aug 30 while he was alle­g­­edly caught stealing money from an ATM.

The father of Salahuddin alleges that his son was subjected to brutal torture by the officials of Rahim Yar Khan’s City A-Division police station.

A first information report (FIR) was lodged against Station House Officer Mehmoodul Hassan and investigation officers Sub-Inspe­ctor Shafaat Ali and Assistant Sub-Inspector Matloob Hussain on the complaint of Salahuddin’s father Mohammad Afzaal, who said that his son was mentally challenged.

The Rahim Yar Khan DPO has already written a memorandum to a sessions judge and requested that a judicial inquiry into the matter be conducted by a magistrate.

A police spokesperson in a statement later urged the public not to “doubt the sincerity of the police” and wait for the report of the judicial inquiry. He said the officials who were nominated in the FIR had been suspended and added that “if [police] had mala fide intentions, they could have hidden Salahuddin’s body and announced that he had escaped”.

“The police did not cover up [the matter],” the statement added.

A video of Salahuddin, a resident of Gujranwala, had gone viral on social media in which he could be seen breaking into an ATM in Faisalabad and sticking his tongue out in jest at the camera. After his death, two more custodial deaths were reported in Lahore, prompting a public anger against police.

The incidents occurred despite the fact that Punjab IG retired Capt Arif Nawaz Khan had issued clear instructions to all field officers that “no officer will be spared if such crime was reported in any part of the province”. For the purpose, he had paid surprise visits to some police stations of Punjab.

Earlier, he had also given his policy guideline in this respect to all regional, district and city police officers. However, despite all efforts, the incidents of torture of suspects in police custody continued to surface, bringing a bad name to the department.

The agenda for the meeting also shows that the Senate committee members have also sought a briefing from the Ministry of Human Rights on the delay in presentation of the “anti-torture legislation despite lapse of considerable time”.

Mr Khokhar said the bill had been moved by former PPP senator Farhatullah Babar and it was transmitted to the previous National Assembly after its passage from the Senate. However, he said, the bill lapsed when the NA completed its five-year term without approving it. He said that during one of the meetings of the committee about six months ago, the ministry had assured them that the bill would be tabled within a month. He regretted that six months had already passed, but the legislation had not seen the light of day.

Moreover, he said he had himself submitted the legislation in the form of a private member’s bill. He expressed the hope that the bill would come up on the agenda in the upcoming Senate session.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019