ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Saturday held the government’s alleged negligence responsible for the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) decision to retain the country on its grey list and demanded a joint session of parliament to discuss the situation.

The party expressed concern over absence of an anti-torture legislation amid reports of torture in police stations and opaque detention centres and called for early legislation to criminalise torture.

Former Senate chairman and PPP leader Nayyar Ali Bukhari said that the government ignored PPP proposals on FATF, adding that the party urged the government to fully implement the National Action Plan from day one.

“The FATF decision to not remove the country from its grey list is a question mark on the performance of the government. We gave proposals to the government to implement all points of the National Action Plan chalked out by all parties,” he said.

Calls for early legislation to criminalise torture

He said the consequences of the federal government’s attitude of ignoring the PPP’s proposals were in front of everyone. “If Imran Khan had implemented our suggestions instead of putting the opposition against the wall, the situation would have been different,” he said.

“Pakistan is being ridiculed in front of other nations because of the incompetent government imposed on the country,” Mr Bukhari said and added that it was dire need to call a joint session of Parliament to discuss how to bring out the country from this situation.

“And, the PTI government should inform the parliament about its action to bring out the country from grey list. The government made tall claims that it implemented all the points to remove the country’s name from the grey list but the decision of FATF is different,” he said.

Detention centres

The PPP is gravely concerned about absence of an anti-torture legislation amid reports of torture in police stations and opaque detention centres and calls for early legislation to criminalise torture.

This has been stated in a statement issued by the secretary general of PPP Parliamentarians Farhat­ullah Babar in connection with the International Day against Torture observed worldwide on June 26.

He said that the Convention against Torture (CAT) was ratified during the PPP government in 2010 and it was obligatory to make a domestic legislation. A private member bill criminalising torture was also passed unanimously by the Senate in March 2015 but there has been no progress despite many public assurances by the government during the past three years, he said.

“We live in a state of denial. Official reports submitted to the UN human rights bodies deny torture in state’s detention centres. When the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) in 2019 refuted the no-torture claims in its shadow report the Commission itself became dysfunctional since May that year”

As per universally accepted practice, the Bill passed by the Senate also stated that war, threat of war, internal political instability or an order of a superior authority shall not constitute a defence against the commission of offence of torture. However, during a meeting of the Senate’s human rights committee it transpired that the government had reservations over it.

Not making this provision in the law would defeat the very purpose of legislation and raise more questions about internment centres in the country, he said.

Mr Babar said allegations of securing confessions under torture were not entirely unfounded. In October 2018, the Peshawar High Court set aside convictions of over 70 people in internment centres on the basis of questionable “confessional statements”. The Supreme Court has suspended the PHC verdict.

He called for an independent inquiry into the allegations of involvement of state functionaries in torture in all detention centres.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2021

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