Use of torture in Pakistan to extract confessions is widespread, report

Pakistani flags protesters

The use of torture in Pakistan by law enforcement agencies in order to extract confessions or other information has been widespread, according to The News International newspaper.

The News International is an English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

Though efforts to eradicate this practice have been expedited in recent years, with the passage of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act in 2022, gaps in the framework to identify, punish and end the use of torture remain, it said.

According to some, the legal definition of torture excludes mental and psychological abuse, which is equally as potent as physical abuse in terms of long-term harm, and there is no permanent mechanism to financially compensate victims of torture for the harm that they have suffered.

As per The News International, along with counteracting the practice of torture and compensating and rehabilitating its victims, priority must also be given to dealing with the factors that have led to torture becoming an institutionalized practice. In a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch on 'Police Abuse and Reform in Pakistan', senior officials claimed that lack of training in advanced investigation methods and forensic analysis compelled the police to use torture as an investigation tool.

The report noted that "institutional constraints" and the inability of the state to initiate appropriate reforms have compromised the ability of the police to do their job without violating human rights. While none of this justifies the use of torture, it indicates that it will be difficult to get rid of the practice unless we improve the funds, training and resources available to our law-enforcement agencies.

According to The News International, there is also a need to recognize that torture is a tactic disproportionately used against those from poor and marginalized backgrounds. Getting justice in Pakistan, sadly, remains an expensive process, often preventing those from a low-income background from getting their day in court.

If the victims of torture are unable to register cases, hire a lawyer and pay for all the other legal expenses they might incur, those who perpetrate the practice will continue to go unpunished regardless of how many laws we pass. This will require initiating long overdue reforms of the legal system that make it more accessible to the poor, who make up the majority of this country, The News International said. 


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