Hundreds of ‘suspected militants’ kept in secret detention cells.
New Delhi: Shocking revelations have come forth over Pakistan’s own Guantanamo Bay like-detention camps, where people from tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are held without any legal provision. Pakistan’s military and security forces have been torturing people in its regimental centres, without detainees having any recourse to fair trail.
Pakistan’s former senator Farhatullah Babar in an article “Pakistan’s Horror Chambers” published in Friday Times in June, revealed that during the fight against Taliban in Swat and Malakand a decade ago, hundreds of suspected militants were rounded up in operations and kept in secret detention cells for years. Mr Babar said that as numbers of these people held illegally grew, pressure to bring them into the open for trial in courts also increased. A regulation called Action (In Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 was issued by the President in June that year to provide for the suspects in ‘internment centres’ awaiting trial by courts.
However, to provide legal protection to Pakistan Army, for detaining and torturing people illegally, this legislation was enforced retrospectively since 2008. The regulation defined internment centres as “any compound, house, building, facility or any temporary or permanent structure that is notified by the governor or any officer authorised by him. Through a mischievous interpretation of the words ‘any building,’ the suspects were kept incommunicado in forts,” said Mr Babar. He said any hope from that after the legislation enforced disappearances will one day come to an end throughout the country, was short lived. “Alas, not only have enforced disappearances continued, but in the course of time, horror chambers were also created to legalise them,” he said. As a result of the regulation, a number of internment centres were set up in both tribal areas and in some districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, no one knew exactly how many centres there were and how many detainees were held in each and for what crime.
No parliamentary questions were answered on these “internment centres” and Members of Parliament were not allowed to visit them. Over the years, they virtually became horror chambers of Pakistan, said Mr Babar. In 2013, under pressure from Supreme Court, it was revealed that Frontier Corps (paramilitary force of Pakistan) forts in Chitral, Drosh, Mirkhani and Timergara also served as internment centres.
There was no answer, when the court asked as to what prevented the missing persons, wherever they may have been lodged, from meeting their relatives. “In petitions before courts, relatives of the internees have claimed that apart from holding prisoners in these centres for many years without any trial, they had not even been informed about the charges against them,” said Mr Babar. “Even those held on suspicion of affiliation with banned outfits have neither been charged nor tried for years, they complained.”