LAHORE A housewife, in her early 30s and accompanied by a lawyer, managed to cross the multi-layered security checks to reach the highly-guarded office of a senior police officer here in the Punjabs capital city last week. The officer, who was sitting in his palatial air-conditioned room inside the fortified building, was signing official files in routine as the woman and her lawyer stepped in the chilled office after braving the hot and humid weather. My kids are at home waiting for their father. He is missing for the last 20 days. We dont know whereabouts. He was picked up by a CIA team who raided our house. Just tell us where is he, Sir? the visibly helpless woman asked as the officer glanced at her. If he is a criminal, please register cases against him but at least produce him before a court as per the law, the woman continued. Inside sources have confided to this scribe that the man had been picked up on the 'directions of a Punjab minister and is being subjected to severe torture at the CIAs Kotwali centre. The officer reacted, This case is already in my notice. Let me tell you that your husband is an auto-lifter. We have recovered three stolen cars from his possession so far. He is being interrogated and more cars will be recovered. The woman replied, If it is true, why the police did not mention his arrest (as per the law) and produce him before the court? Why is he being kept in illegal detention for the last 20 days? The officer told her that the police are in no hurry to produce him before the court. We will keep him in [illegal] custody till all cars are recovered. The officer also tried to clear the ministers involvement in the case. He suggested to the woman to keep a check on the activities of her husband. The dejected woman left the office, tears rolling down her cheeks. Incidentally, this reporter is an eyewitness to the incident. The question arises, when a senior and otherwise a responsible police officer justifies illegal detentions, then where do the constitution and the independent judiciary stand? The Crimes Investigations Agency (CIA) Lahore, a special wing of the police to deal with cases of organized crime, is more powerful in the town than the Central Intelligence Agency or the CIA is in the United States of America. Unfortunately, the Citys CIA personnel are 'entitled to keep an accused in illegal custody for as many days as they want because there is no-one to question them. They carry out raids, pick up accused and keep them in illegal detention-cum-torture cells to force the accused to confess their crime, no matter whether they had committed it or not. If many people around the globe know Leon Panetta as the Director of the American CIA then the majority of the people in Lahore also know that SP Omar Virk is the chief of the local CIA. There is hardly any difference between the Lahores CIA and the Americas CIA. Both the forces apply barbaric methods of torture on the accused, keep them in torture cells and, in fact, are above the law. If the Americas CIA runs notorious torture cells such as Guantanamo Bay then the Lahores CIA is running many such cells, including one inside the Kotwali centre. Both these forces are involved in hundreds of extra-judicial killings. The different between the notorious agencies, however, is simple: the American CIA applies all kinds of torture methods on the Muslim suspects captured on terror charges around the world and the Citys CIA crosses all limits vis--vis human right abuses thrust upon its own people, arrested on theft or robbery charges. How the Citys CIA operates in an open secret. They (CIA officials) stage dozens of fake encounters every year to kill the alleged gangsters. They are also running more than 100 private torture cells besides detention centres like the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Not enough, the Operations, Investigations and CIA wings of the City police have set up more than 150 private torture cells in the jurisdiction of 77 police stations in the provincial metropolis to interrogate robbers, car-lifters and other gangsters. Here the cops apply traditional methods of torture without any fear and hesitation. These private torture cells also help police escape bailiff raids in cases of illegal custody. The setting up of private torture cells by the police is a heinous crime and law doest not sanction running of such cells at private places, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, an advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan, commented. He said the police are bound to produce an accused person before the court within 24 hours of his/her arrest. But the Lahore CIA personnel do not abide by the law thanks the top cops who give them a free hand to decide the fate of the gangsters.