Serious allegations: Shafaqna Exclusive

by Tauqeer Abbas

The Supreme Court has summoned Senate’s Opposition Leader Dr Shahzad Waseem on Monday (today) over his letter regarding the alleged torture on PTI Senator Azam Swati in custody.

Dr Waseem and Mr Swati wrote a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan on Oct 17, urging him to take suo motu notice of the alleged torture on the senator while he was in Federal Inves­tigation Agency’s (FIA) custody.

Dr Waseem has been summoned by the director general of the court’s Human Rights Cell. He has been asked to give a briefing on the information about the torture.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the development and expressed the hope that the court will constitute a commission to probe the allegations.

On Friday, the PTI senator named names, claiming he was physically tortured by two senior ISI officials. The interior minister, however, denies Mr Swati’s charges, saying the lawmaker was treated “respectably” during custody. Moreover, PTI supremo Imran Khan also took up the issue as he launched his ‘long march’ from Lahore, saying that the two intel officers Mr Swati had identified should be removed.

To bring clarity to the matter, a thorough probe is needed. After all, when the ISI chief made an unprecedented appearance in front of the media on Thursday, he repeatedly made references to the law and the Constitution. Therefore, when such serious allegations are being made against national institutions, the only way to resolve this issue is through transparency and pledging to respect the law.

State institutions are guardians of the law and need to lead by example. The fact is that in Pakistan, from the local thana to the ‘safe houses’ of the security establishment, torture and violence during custody are not unknown practices. While ordinary folk are meted out this abhorrent treatment quite frequently, when lawmakers and other members of the elite are subjected to torture in custody, it becomes headline news.

Perhaps keeping in mind this grim reality, the Senate has recently passed a bill criminalising torture in custody. To ensure the rule of law, it is imperative that all security institutions, including the police and intelligence apparatus, pledge to eliminate torture as part of their SOPs. The Azam Swati incident can be a test case; let the authorities investigate and if his claims are proven true, then those responsible must be made to answer before the law.

Shafaqna Pakistan

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