Mohammad Yahiya shares his personal experience of state terrorism and torture in this article
Introduction, state terrorism and torture
If Pakistan is to address terrorism on its soil, the government must first look at the actions of the state. Governments are servants of the people, voted in to lead by example therefore the behaviour of politicians and state authorities must be exemplary, not above the law but within and according to the legislation of a country. Only today we hear of alleged misappropriation of counter-terrorism funds by Rehman Malik from investigative journalist Umar Cheemar while victims are dying day by day. Cheema writes in The News International that,
“hardly a single penny of the secret fund allocated to National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) was used for curbing terrorism as a glance through documents indicates its massive abuse” http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-28064-Counter-terrorism-funds-used-for-gifts-expenses-phones-flowers
How can a state condemn the terrorism of insurgents such as the killing of the Express Tribune workers when it has faced numerous allegations with regard to its own conduct with journalists? I could raise some unpleasant details in this area as the colleague of the late Saleem Shahzad murdered for his honest journalism that could seriously undermine the standing of some institutions but I am working to support dialogue and peace. Lets just say the official inquiry into the torture and killing of Saleem (without my ever being asked to give evidence) somewhat missed the mark and failed to deliver!
How can state bodies that are asked to account in court for many cases of “enforced disappearances” criticize kidnappings by insurgents.
Knowing that detainees are strung up, beaten, burnt, submerged under water, sexually abused and subjected to other forms of torture in police stations and prisons, how can the state then cry about shootings and beheadings? Even as I write this Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) are tweeting about removal of 31 police personnel related to allegations of torture (more to be investigated). Credit to the opposition party for taking action.
Ask civilians, their homes and businesses are pounded with army shells in the Tribal Areas, at a time when drone strikes annihilate children…. how can the state criticize bombings by militants when the state attacks non-combatants? If the state propagates terrorism and torture, there is no moral/ legal leg to stand on!
It is as the saying goes… “the kettle calling the pot black”.
Read the following definitions of terrorism and torture and now apply these to the state!
Terrorism … the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims (Oxford Dictionary)
Torture … Part I (Taken from Geneva Convention)
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
I was able to obtain the following personal testimony from Mohammad Yahlya showing how police and prisons terrorize and torture as part of the War on Terror and as instruments of the state in Pakistan. The wording is exactly as received without any editing. Those in a state of hysteria about recent terrorist incidents should take an honest look at what part the state may have played in turning individuals on the road to insurgency.
Say no to torture
How I was radicalized by the state (allegations of terrorism and torture)
- Name; Mohammad Yahiya (not real name).
- 28 years old.
- Nationality; Pakistani.
- Religion; Islam
- Circumstances of arrestment; I am a student related to the religious affairs of teaching and learning at Anwar-Ul-Uloom.
One day I am returning to home along with one of my class mate from charsadda Preachers Centre (charsadda Tablighi Markaz) after attaining Shab-e-Juma. On the way to home the police arrested both of us, as per saying of the police the Intelligence Agencies had doubt on my friend, from that date up to now I don’t know the reason that why he is doubtful and wanted.
- First of all they took us to the Central Jail of District Charsadda.
- Where we faced such new situations that we had not expected/Imagined.
The police officers/personnel there started beating us and calling us convict, terrorist and other offensive words without any evidence and investigation. This is completely an unexpected situation.
At first moment I realized that there is some misunderstanding and might they had arrested me in place of another person. But my doubt ended when a senior police officer addressed me that you are a terrorist.
After imprisonment I faced and experienced something that I had never seen and faced before. While I am at the prison cell they took my friend and after some time I heard him weeping and screaming loudly. After some time they bring back my friend to the cell and take me to the investigation room.
There are about 30 Police personnel around me, they all at once started beating me with heavy sticks and kicking me, at that time I couldn’t see anything. They are beating me just like someone playing football. They stopped for a while and I am lying senseless, motionless and helpless at the floor. I thought for a while that the torture is over now, because the police personnel are feeling tired, but in order to eliminate fatigue they started a new tactic, 4 police men lift-off me bounced me in air and then I collapsed on the floor, they repeated it about 4 times. The police personnel had become tired and feeling sleepy because it is too late at night.
Each and every part of my body is aching and I had got numerous wounds, which are bleeding. The police tied my hands and legs and put me in a narrow cell, my legs are 3-4 feet above the floor while my head is on the floor. Since it was summer season the jail is too hot which increased my troubles, my body is sweating and my wounds are bleeding which are acting as a hunting camp for the Mosquitoes and flies. I had got most of wounds because they hit me a needle type instruments that is used for cobblers for mending and sewing shoes. The instrument is called “Raina” in our local Pashto language. I passed the whole night in the same condition as I mentioned above and at last the morning appeared.
The next morning they took me again to investigate again. The SSP Tauseef Haider came; he is going to investigate me. For a moment it came to my mind that since he is a senior and educated officer so he would have a little bit human behavior. He started questioning about such things, peoples, events and issues about which I knew nothing. On his order the police men brought a bucket containing water, two police men hold my hands tightly and the other two dipped my head in water for minutes. At that time I became hopeless and disappointed about my life. Whenever they feel that my breath and heart beat is about to stop they take my head out of water and started questioning again. They repeated the same about 4 times.
After the torture when I enquired about the reasons of torturing me, they replied that you have friendship and connections with your terrorist friend, so you are also a terrorist.
At the same night when they arrested me they took my pictures and arrived at my home. They called my father and showed him my pictures asking him do you know this person. He replied yes, this is my son. Then they also took him to jail and tortured him. They also checked/searched my whole home inch by inch and insulted my whole family. Such events are considered very insulting one in our Pashtun society when an unknown person enters your home directly without asking or knocking.
When my investigation ended the senior officers ordered to take/transfer him to another police station. They took me out of jail; they had tortured me enough that I am not able to sit in the police mobile. So two police men hold me from my hands and legs and throw me in the mobile van just like someone put a heavy bag in the car. Then the second police station arrived, they put me in a narrow cell where other 3 prisoners are already present. There is a small toilet in the cell with no door, there is no fan in the cell and since it is summer season and there is no proper ventilation system that’s why are we are facing such troubles that now no one can imagine.
I had given nothing to eat or drink for about 33 hours. The police give us nothing to eat. The only source of my access to food is that my other cell mates receives food form their families on regular basis when they ate they gave me the remaining food.
I was prisoned for about 1 month in the investigation/torture cell, during which I had no knowledge about that after how many time the prisoner is presented before the court.
After 1 month of imprisonment they presented me in the court. Before they took me to the court they told me that you have to speak what we order’s/tell you, it would be better for you and you will be released. I thought for a while that the police are aware of the Pakistani law and it would be a help and assistance from them. But after recording that statement I had been jailed for 2 years.
For the first month of imprisonment I had not being permitted to contact with my family members and nor my family members had contacted me, nor they know anything about my prison that where he is being prisoned.
About spiritual needs I would say that during the first month of investigation I have no access to Recitation of Quran Sharif and other Islamic books, because it is completely banned there.
During the imprisonment period the police used to brand/burn my sexual organs with a burning cigarette on daily basis, which physically and mentally affected me.
After presentation in court I had been transferred to the Peshawar Central jail where I passed 2 years, and the conditions there become normal and affordable up to some extent.
My friend is tortured in front of me, sometimes I realized that he is been dead. Because he is usually hanged vertically with head below and feet’s above for hours, and the police officers used to address me that your turn is coming after him, speak truly and clearly. His body is wet with water; he is looking just like a dead body, but after some time I found him alive.
I had been imprisoned for about 2 years and I month (25 months).
After filing case in court I defend myself for 2 years after which I had been released. After that I decided that I would not pass even one day in such a system of brutality and injustice. And I attained/joined mujahedeen and started armed struggle against that system. And I shall continue my struggle up to the destruction and end up of such system Insha’Allah.
This whole situation took place from May 2009.
Thanks to those who helped share this story.
Asian Human Rights Commission legal framework regarding torture in Pakistan
The Pakistan police torture project
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.