LAHORE: Two members of the country’s Christian community are battling for life in a private clinic after undergoing police brutalities for a couple of days in Lahore’s Shalimar police station.

Thirty-year-old Faraz Masih and forty-year-old Doya Masih were picked up by the investigation wing of the Shalimar police station in connection with a mugging case last week.

A close relative of the suspects visited the police station and covertly took pictures of the suspects, which would send chills of horror down the spine of any sane person. When the man shared the gruesome photos with crime reporters, the issue came into the notice of the senior police officers. Four police investigators were immediately suspended from service to control the damage while an inquiry is underway to investigate the matter.

The family members paid several visits to the police station and met the victims only after paying bribe to the lower subordinates. A relative of one of the suspects today told The Nation that when they fell unconscious in the police lock-up, the suspects were shifted to a private clinic by the policemen. 

“The police investigators applied third degree torture methods during interrogation. They were demanding one hundred thousand rupees for the release of the suspects. The poor families were unable to pay the bribe,” said the frightened relative while requesting anonymity.

A police team headed by sub-inspector Hammad Butt kept both the Christians in illegal custody for several days. The suspects were not named in any criminal case and the arrests were also not mentioned in the official record. As per the law, the police are bound to produce crime suspects before the local court within 24 hours of the arrest. 

“They were paraded naked, thrashed, punched, and kicked on their private parts. Their hands and feet were tied to a charpoy and they were tortured brutally in upside down position. The policemen also threw salt and pepper on the victim’s injuries to force them to confess to the robberies (whether they had committed or not)”.

The police during interrogation uses multiple methods of torture to extort cash and information from crime suspects. Although the police are asked to use scientific methods of investigations yet the suspects are tortured by police to force them to confess the crimes.

Interestingly, the police in the Punjab province are paid bribe for both purposes – to torture and not to torture the suspects. The policemen are bribed to avoid torture on suspects belonging to rich and influential families while the poor are subjected to severe torture to get bribe.

Some crime suspects told The Nation that they felt the “pain” for several years after they had experienced police “interrogation.”

Shera Masih, a 30-year-old Christian is one of them. He says he was arrested in connection with drug-peddling five years ago from the University of Engineering and Technology. “They (policemen) pushed a long wooden club into my private parts. It was horrific and the pain was unbearable. I had lost consciousness,” the resident of Misri Shah said. “My family had paid Rs 80,000 to the police to get rid of torture. After being paid, the police produced me before the court and then sent me to the jail.”

Muhammad Razzaq who faced police brutalities for at least 11 days in the lockup of the Green Town police station said the policemen continue torturing the suspects from midnight to dawn.

“When the calls for Fajar prayers begin, the suspects heave a sigh of relief because the police don’t torture in the morning hours,” Razzaq recalled the nights and days he spent in the lockup after being arrested in connection with a fake fraud case.  The 50-year-old man had been released later as the police failed to establish anything against him. “They are inhuman and they have no feelings,” he said while referring to the police investigators.

The policemen found involved in brutalities are only suspended from service for a few weeks. Mostly, they are transferred to other police stations but on the same posts.

More than 100 private torture cells are operating under the nose of top cops in the Punjab capital, where the police detain accused illegally on the pretext of interrogation for many days to avoid legal complications.

Sources in the police department revealed that the Operations, Investigations, and CIA wings of the City police had set up more than 100 private torture cells in the jurisdiction of 77 police stations in Lahore.

The suspects, arrested in connection with robberies, auto-lifting, and theft case, are subjected to severe torture by policemen without any fear and hesitation. These private torture cells also help police escape the raids of court bailiffs in cases of illegal custody.

Legal experts say the police in the Punjab province are still following colonial model, which was meant to control masses rather than serve them. There is no system of much-needed civilian control of the police. As per Police Order 2002, the Public Safety Commissions should be revived.

“Police screening is the need of the hour. Any law on torture must have compensation for the victim,” they argued. Many suspects die in police custody every year. In November 2014, a 35-year-old Christian man, accused of selling alcohol to the Muslim population in Lahore, died in the lock up of Green Town police.

Rights activists say there is not even a single mention of word “torture” in the entire Pakistan Penal Code. So there is no law or section about torture in the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had sent a letter to the Parliament suggesting recommendations for the new Bill comprising rehabilitation and compensation for torture victims.