ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday alleged that torture cells built on the style of Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons were being operated in the provincially and federally administered tribal areas as well as other parts of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the name of internment centres.

He also proposed a small parliamentary delegation to undertake a fact-finding visit to look into what was happening inside the "Guantanamo Bay and Bagram-like prisons” without naming who was operating those.

Babar, while speaking on an issue of public importance in the Senate, said that as a result of promulgation of the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011, several dozen internment centres were set up in various parts of the country for those accused of militancy-related offences.

The regulation was given back-dated effect to encourage the law enforcement agencies bring into the open those held during fight against militancy in Swat and Malakand.

It was a huge concession given to the agencies so that those who were in their custody without trial were brought into the open and tried, the senator said.

“However, these internment centres have turned into Guantanamo Bay[-like] prisons and black holes from where no information trickles,” he said.

Babar further pointed out that neither the parliament nor the Supreme Court had been updated on  the offences the inmates were charged with, whether being tried or not, for how long were they incarcerated, and how many died during captivity and how.

Later, while talking to the media, the senator said that the disclosure made in the KP government report before the Supreme Court early this week was even more disturbing.

According to it, the army had been called in most of the districts in the KP under the 2011 Regulation suspending the writ jurisdiction of the high court under Article 245 (3) of the Constitution.

So one does not know for sure whether there are only 45 internment centres, as officially admitted, or there are many more Guantanamo Bay-type prisons, he said.

On another issue of public importance, the senator drew the attention towards depriving the officers of the Military Lands and Cantonment (MLCS) cadre of the post of director general for the past over a decade causing heart burning and demoralisation of officers of civilian cadre.

He said that cadre officers of various civil service groups looked forward to reaching the top but in this case the highest cadre position was occupied by non-cadre officers without break for over a decade.

Last time, the prime minister, while granting extension to the non-cadre officer had ordered that it would be last time to give an extension after which the post shall stand reverted to cadre officers but it had not been done, Babar said.

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani referred the matter to the relevant committee of the Senate to examine and report.

‘NFC AWARD INCENTIVISES RUNAWAY GROWTH IN POPULATION’

The overwhelming weightage to population in the National Finance Commission Award is a political statement that Pakistan incentivises runaway growth in population, which needs to be revisited, if we have to win the long-term battle against population explosion.

Speaking at a ceremony in a local hotel in Islamabad to celebrate 25 years of Population Council of Pakistan, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the over 80 per cent weightage to population as factor determining the award be progressively reduced.

Instead the achievements of sustainable development goals (SDGs) targets relating to population control and social and human development be incentivised in the NFC Award, the senator said.

It is an issue that cannot be addressed by any singly party, and called for a larger public debate involving all political parties, the civil society, other stakeholders and the parliament for evolving political consensus, he said.

Babar said that the latest census had shown that the population was growing at 2.4 per cent yearly during the last two decades.

The senator said that the greatest threat to Pakistan emanated not from across the border but it was located within the borders and arose from population bomb and militancy and called for correcting the narrative on threat perception.

 

 

Imran Mukhtar & Shafqat Ali