Policing as torture in Faisalabad

With the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) set to conduct hearings into nearly 1,500 instances of police torture in Faisalabad, The Express Tribune presents select victim testimonies in association with rights organisation Justice Project Pakistan.

At a loss

I moved police after someone I had a feud with behaved inappropriately with women family members. I did as expected. We did not hear back. Weeks elapsed. No probe was conducted.

My brothers and I then proceeded to the police station. We failed to elicit a response from an IO on progress registered. Pressed for an answer, he started hurling obscenities at my mother and sisters. I told him to leave them out of it.

That is when he lost his temper and lunged at me. The ordeal commenced with slaps. Two policemen then threw me in lockup. My brothers watched helplessly as they beat me senseless with guns and batons.

They knew exactly what they were doing, each blow striking the very spot as the last. They knew how to make it hurt. I begged forgiveness. I had done nothing but I thought this would make them stop. It did not.

I was let go only after an influential acquaintance interceded. My knee bone was displaced. I am still unable to move freely.

My neighbours mock me. They say I was ‘humiliated’. I think terrified down to my bones would be a more apt description. Even that would not make the shame any easier to live with.

I am at a loss. I do not know who to approach. Who does one turn to when you need protection from the ones tasked with ensuring your security?

Costly compromise

Never did the thought of carrying my deceased child ever cross my mind. Nor did I ever think I would bury him with my own hands. Our lives were shattered the day he was killed.

I did not want more bloodshed. We reached a compromise – blood money. Police, earlier pestering me to drop charges, demanded a cut. My refusal cost me dearly.

One day, some policemen held me as I left home to go somewhere. Unable to get anything, they threw me in a van and took me to the police station.

There, my hands were bound with a rope suspended from a ceiling fan (strappado). The men then struck my back with a leather belt. Tears – the skin of my buttocks was torn apart.

My plaintive cries only elicited laughter.

I was released after the union council chairman intervened. Another notable requested me to not pursue the matter after I underwent a medical examination. I do not want to make an enemy of the police. They terrify me.

Social censure

It was 2am. I was asleep when police scaled the wall and barged inside. They handcuffed me. I have school tomorrow, I yelled.

A complaint had been filed against me. They were looking for someone else.

Behind the police station was another set of rooms where detainees were tortured. I was taken there. The rooms were bare except for a charpoy in one and a bed in the other.

Chittar on the back and butt, danda on the limbs. Falaka and rolla too. The torture did not cease for an hour.

A police official would order his plain-clothed gunman to beat me. He would till told to stop.

I could not sleep because of the pain. My nose bled all night.

My family was not allowed to see me despite repeated requests.  I was moved from station to station to avoid detection. I begged for food in vain. Other detainees tended to my wounds. I remained detained for 21 days, released only when a bailiff conducted a raid on the police station.

Police continue to hurl threats. With fear came social censure. The entire village knew what transpired. Friends looked at me differently, neighbours avoided my family and I. We relocated elsewhere.

I still have trouble sleeping. I suffer from chronic back and leg pain. There is virtually no sensation in my fingers and thumb.

Note: Many victims were subjected to more than one method of torture

Swatted like a housefly

Note: Doctor confirmed one woman had been raped. Two other cases of possible but unconfirmed rape reported

I always thought women police dealt with suspects of the same gender. That this was not (always) the case became clear the day I was slapped by a policeman.

Ornaments were taken away. I was dragged by my hair. Expletives I had never heard before were used for me.

My husband and I were then taken to a school on the outskirts of the city. Beaten he was with bamboo sticks like one swats a housefly. He was stripped. They made him walk around the courtyard after fastening his right hand and left ankle together. I will never forget the sound of them laughing as he struggled. My husband was then suspended from the roof of the building.

They made me witness the proceedings. They made sure I did.

Faisalabad CPO Athar Ismael refused comment on the testimonies saying police were not cognisant of the JPP report. Rejecting reports of rampant police torture, he pledged full cooperation with the NCHR.

“It is binding on Pakistan to prevent torture and punish perpetrators under international law. As a signatory to both, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the nation is also obligated to provide adequate redress to victims of torture,” Ahsan Kazmi of the NCHR said.

Presented in collaboration with: Justice Project Pakistan

Additional reporting: Ahtshamul Haq

Illustrations: Ibrahim Yahya