Torture in custody is a typical practice in Pakistan and there are numerous examples of the extreme brutality committed at the hands of Police Officials, which leave prisoners unconscious. The irony is that it is still unabated and currently, there is no law to stop this menace in the country.

The most common of these tortures include the thrashing of leather straps popularly known as chittar. It was evident by the TV coverage in March 2010. While, others include preying of finger nails through screwdrivers and hanging people upside down, chaining them to chairs and thrashing them with sticks. This is done in the name of extracting information, evidence and for confessions. However, the Constitution of Pakistan’s Article 14 talks about the dignity of a man and that no person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of evidence. Similarly, the Sindh High Court once pointed out that the right of person dignity is an absolute right and is not subject to law. The brutal torture by the police is still unabated. None of the perpetrators have been brought to account by the government in police torture cases. Instead of providing any preventative or accountability mechanism the government has aided them.

According to Human Rights Watch Report 2017, these violations are not just limited to police tortures but these extend to enforced disappearances, religious minorities, children’s rights, women rights and many others. Some key incidents include Rashid Rehman, a human rights lawyer, who was shot dead on 7th May by unknown people for representing people accused of blasphemy. Sawan Masih’s house was set on fire by a mob as the Lahore court sentenced him to the death penalty in a blasphemy case. The case of two brothers who were charged with murder in 2002, were acquitted after they had been hanged. The case of Zeenat Shehzadi and Rashid Rehman are the leading cases for enforced disappearances. In reflection to these incidents even after being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966, and the Convention against Torture (CAT), Pakistan is ranked amongst the states where the most violation of Human Rights is carried out.

Didn’t the state have the obligation to show why these people were deprived of their rights? Will the state be held accountable?

The need of the hour is to sign and ratify the First Optional Protocol as it provides individuals with the right to communicate to the Human Rights Committee in case there rights have been breached from the Covenant and provides power to the international body to hold States accountable. This way state cannot get rid of by manipulating the annual reports as it had done in regards to its submission to Human Rights Committee regarding the steps it took to give effect to the rights listed in Covenant. According to General Comment, 33 of ICCPR states are under obligation to act in principle of good faith with regards to all treaty obligations. It provides a more effective and safer platform to the victims to communicate as they have been denied justice from the domestic legal system and the religious factions as well.

It is evident in the recent case of blogger disappearance that if a pressure in the form of media or street protests has been created on state, the result can be different; as 4 out of 5 bloggers were recovered. However, no such legislation and policies have been made to criminally charge those responsible for these tortures and changing the discriminatory blasphemy laws that being referred as “draconian” by Human Rights Watch Report. Although it might be defaming for the country at International platform, this does not outweigh the heart-wrenching stories of gross violation of human rights. Since such domestic pressure has been fruitful in recovering victims previously, signing and ratifying the protocol would create an international pressure on the government. It will help Pakistan to get rid of its horrible history of human rights violation to present the image of the self-respecting nation and to provide justice to its people. As Martin Luther King, Jr quotes “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”