What is this if not apathy?
By A.A. Usmani
“Now they will implicate me in ‘goat-stealing cases’, was the statement issued by former Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain, who has been in custody since August last year. Dr Asim was obviously pointing to the LEAs inability to prove the terrorism charges (charges to finance terrorism, medical treatment of terrorists) against him. And his words proved true as hours after this statement, he was indicted in a corruption case.
This sudden shift of the focus of interrogation against Dr Asim from terrorism charges to corruption accusation is a clear manifestation of the highhanded of the LEAs in this particular case.
Like the above statement, one may also agree with Dr Asim’s another statement in which he not only straightforwardly denied all the allegations against him but also said in clear terms that the cases are politically-motivated.
Actually, with unbridled powers comes the inevitability of abuse. That symbiotic link has been illustrated, gruesomely and assertively, with the detention of Dr Asim Hussain.
Dr Asim Hssain was arrested in August last year by Rangers and was handed over to police after three-month preventive detention. The main accusation against him was sponsoring terrorism and treating terrorists at his hospitals.
The Rangers’ claim that Dr Asim had been involved in financing terrorism and treating the terrorists stands in stark contrast to the general perception about Dr Asim as a great philanthropist. It indicates the extent to which the paramilitary force will distort facts to protect itself from blame by changing their stances.
Not only those cases are politically-motivated, the treatment meted out to Dr Asim Hussain in detention is politically-advised by the PML-N rulers.
Isn’t it ironic that the so-called patriotic ‘rulers’ who did not prefer their homeland to be worthy of investment. Instead they sent all their legal and illegal wealth abroad, depriving the locals of hundreds rather thousands of job opportunities.
And instead of accepting their greater sins, are questioning the legality of the ventures of their political opponents (Dr Asim), whose only sin is to dedicate all his resources and means for the better health and education facilities to the masses and challenlise all his energies for the betterment of the homeland.
Indeed, Dr Asim is only penalized for choosing his home land and own people for welfare activities.
Time is a great judge and with the passage of time more facts regarding the illegal detention of Dr Asim will prove.
That Rangers subjected Dr Asim to severe torture to get false confessions from him has been validated by the latest custodial death of MQM coordinator Mr Aftab Ahmed, who died of obvious LEAs torture in detention.
That the current government is obviously supporting such acts of torture in custody can be guaged from the fact that despite Aftab’s initial post-mortem report confirming that he was brutally tortured and despite the passage of a couple of days of the formation of the investigation committee by the Rangers director-general to inquire into his custodial death, the rulers did not sympathise with the bereaved family.
MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar rightly lamented on government’s indifference over the death of party worker Aftab Ahmed in custody of a security agency.
It is saddening to note that despite repeated pleas from the PPP, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not commiserate over Dr Asim’s torture in custody. What is this if not apathy?
The issue of extrajudicial killings and torture in detention of the political victims has tainted the security operation in Karachi ever since it was launched in late 2013, following which the Rangers were given extraordinary powers – later extended to various other law-enforcement agencies – to detain people suspected of terrorism or facilitating terrorist activity.
Indeed, that latitude may itself be part of the problem: Section 11EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 which allows for the detention of suspects for up to 90 days, takes away judicial discretion in the matter entirely and stipulates only that the court be informed of each detention.
This has seemingly allowed an assumption of impunity by the Rangers predicated on the pretext of ‘restoring law and order’, and the Sindh parties like the PPP and the MQM in particular have borne the brunt.
The controversial arrest and subsequent ill treatment of Ex Petroleum Minister Dr Asim and Chairman Sindh HEC Dr. Asim Hussain (SI,HI), by the LEAs, is not sort of good precedent either.
Our country is passing through critical juncture of period in the wake of its war on terror, religious fanatics and sectarian militants. And it cannot afford that its institutions should overstep their ambits. Situation requires that every institution should work within its constitutional and legal ambit so that democracy should proceed on its determined path and the issues of militancy and extremisms are weeded out.
Right now it seems that those at the helm of affairs are more interested in harassing and humiliating the personalities from the liberal parties like the PPP and the MQM who are all focused and willing to work against eh menace of terrorism.
There are galore of politicians in our country, but very few are engaged in giving back to the society which is lagging far behind on almost every front, particularly the health and education sectors. Dr Asim is the one who was actively engaged in serving the society on all fronts before his detention.
He also played a significant role as a former member of the Executive Committee of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council.
Education sector was his citadel.
He is a strong advocate of collaboration between the public and the private sectors and for this purpose; he has initiated several ventures with a view to promoting provision of service through creating these associations. He also has the honour of having served as the President of the Private Medical Universities Association of Pakistan. Apart from various awards and medals, he was conferred with the Sitara-e-Imtiaaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaaz awards for his contribution to educational and health development.
He is an unmatched philanthropist and the valuable services rendered by him especially in the health and education sector cannot be forgotten. He is an asset of Sindh and Pakistan. His services for standard health and education and capacity building of the less-privileged are a source of inspiration.
He is the grandson of Dr Ziauddin, and comes from a family that helped create Pakistan.
Dr Asim is a progressive individual who did not need to provide medical help to criminals or resort to corruption. Had he been corrupt, he would have opted to lucrative fields of business-generation instead of health and education.
All said and written, in the wake of LEAs highhanded on victims in detention, there is a need to review section 11 EEEE in the ATC 1997 which disallows judicial discretion in the matter of detention of suspects for up to 90 days without any oversight mechanism.
The anti-torture bill was passed unanimously by the Senate in March last year and is pending with the National Assembly and that it is good to see that the PPP is desperate to seek its early adoption The Bill defines “Torture” as inflicting physical or mental pain upon another person in custody, for obtaining any information or a confession or harassing and molesting a woman for this purpose.
The Bill prescribes life imprisonment and a fine of three million rupees for custodial death or custodial rape and a minimum of five years in jail and a fine up to one million rupees for torture. The amount of fine recovered will be paid to the victim.
Any statement obtained as a result of torture will be inadmissible as evidence. Every offence under it is cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bail-able.
It may be recalled here that Pakistan signed the Convention against Torture in 2008 and ratified it in 2010 during the PPP government. The Bill passed by the Senate in March last year was the enabling of legislation in this regard.
The absence of anti-torture law is a sort of license to the law enforcing agencies to torture and even kill suspects while in custody.
While the Karachi operation conducted jointly by the Rangers and Police has significantly brought down the acts of terrorism, target killings, Aftab Ahmed’s death and Dr Asim extreme torture in detention for the sake of execrating false confessions will be a blot on the Rangers reputation unless all those directly or indirectly responsible for it are brought to law in accordance with their share in the offences.