The Asian Human Rights Commission has received a report of the atrocious torture of a soldier by the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) on the false charges of working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), of the Indian intelligence agencies in Pakistani held Kashmir. He was arrested by the ISI and then disappeared for five years during which period he was tortured. He lost his teeth, his spine was fractured, his legs were burnt and he had a large injury mark on the head. He cannot walk without the help of at least two persons.
The victim was exonerated from all charges by a court martial at the Kharian cantonment, Punjab province. To-date he has spent more than Rs. 3 Million on his medical treatment but the military and government have refused to pay his medical bills.
According to the details, Mr. Mohammad Iqbal Awan, 39, son of Mohammad Yaqoob Awan, a resident of Salakan village, Tehseel Athmuqam, Neelam district, (post office Baiyan, Azad Kashmir of Pakistan), was recruited in the army as a Naik, the lowest rank, in February 2, 1990 in the 650 Mujahadeen Battalion. His military serial number was 433683.
At some point in time the ISI tried to co-opt him to work for a Jihad (holy war) inside Indian Kashmir but being a professional army man he ignored their offer.
On November 27, 2003 he was arrested by Major Shoukat of the ISI, stationed at Neelam district, and was accused of working for an Indian Intelligence agency, the RAW. He was released in December 2008 after he was exonerated from all charges by the court martial at Kharain district, Punjab province.
After his arrest he was blind folded and taken away by the uniformed persons from sub district Leepa, Muzaffarabad district, the capital of Azad Kashmir, (Pakistani held Kashmir). He remained in the custody of the ISI for almost five years and was severely tortured to confess that he was working for India. During the captivity he was kept blind folded all the time and transferred to many different torture cells. During the six months of his court martial he was not allowed to meet any body.
According to him, during the torture, his back bone was fractured and because of this injury he cannot sit and walk; even using the toilet in the usual position is extremely painful for him. He now has a surgical steel rod, 18 inches in length attached to his spinal column which he had to pay for at his own expense. He lost his front teeth and four other teeth during the torture. His legs were burnt by boiling water and he has a deep scar on the head. During his incarceration he was usually held in darkened cells and many times he was kept in stinking toilets.
After his release he was admitted to the central military hospital, Rawalpindi, Punjab province. He was treated for more than six months and had to pay the hospital charges. He was forced to take pre-retirement from the service as he was no longer fit for duty in the army. Subsequently he was given his pension only but no compensation for his five years of captivity in the torture cells of the ISI.
During his disappearance his wife, Ms. Khatoon bibi, contacted many high officials of the Pakistan army and ISI stationed in the Kashmir to learn his whereabouts but officials of the army denied that he was in army or ISI custody. She also went to the Rawalpindi head quarters of the Pakistan Army, in Punjab province, and met with Brigadier Farooq in 2006 to ask about his whereabouts. The Brigadier told her that if her husband confessed that he works for India he would be tried in court otherwise it would be difficult for her to meet him. She has been continuously writing appeals to the president of Pakistan, the Prime minister, the Chief of Army Staff, Brigade commander of 5AK unit of Pakistan Army stationed at Muzaffarabad, Kashmir, commander of 12 depot of the Army, Corp Commander of Rawalpindi, prime minister of Pakistani held Kashmir and other high officials of Kashmir during his disappearance and after his release. To-date she has yet to receive a reply from any one of these officers.
Mr. Mohammad Iqbal Awan is now handicapped and has no control over his legs due to the damage to his spine by the severe torture. He is currently receiving treatment for his spinal cord and legs at the FRI hospital which treats disabled persons. To attend the hospital he has to spend Rs. 15, 000 for his conveyance from his home to hospital.
The case of Iqbal Awan exposes the torture committed by the intelligence agencies, particularly by the ISI which, according to any law or constitution is illegal. However, it is widely known and reported that the intelligence agencies arrest persons and torture them in their secret detention centres. It is also generally accepted that the ISI is very active in Pakistani held Kashmir and virtually acts as the only law enforcing authority in the area. The AHRC has documented many cases of abduction, torture and murder committed by the ISI to spread terror in the valley, please see the following links; AHRC-UAC-172-2009, AHRC-STM-011-2010
The intelligence agencies, particularly the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is accused of training and sending people inside Indian held Kashmir for Jihad or providing information of militants working inside other parts of Kashmir. The family members of the disappeared people are also stating that when people, who worked for intelligence agencies, leave the Jihad and return to their normal lives they are nabbed by the ISI and shifted to unknown places as punishment for not working in the interests of national security. There are also reports that some missing persons, who were sent to collect information from Indian Kashmir, were also hired for smuggling liquor and other Indian items when they come back to Pakistani Kashmir after completing their assignments.
There are hundreds of complaints, even, before the higher courts, where it is alleged that people were abducted by the state intelligence agencies particularly by the ISI and military intelligence and were kept in different torture cells for many months on charges of working against Pakistan or involvement with Indian agencies. It is an established fact that the intelligence agencies are running their own parallel governments where the real government and its agencies are not allowed to interfere. Even the jurisdiction of the courts has little value when it comes to inquiring about the involvement of any intelligence agencies in the legal affairs of the country.
The government’s and higher judiciary’s inability to control the state intelligence agencies particularly, the ISI, to contain itself in to its own professional duties have given them impunity to run their illegal detention centres and torture cells. In the cases of disappearances the families of the disappeared persons generally accuse the state intelligence agencies. This is confirmed by the disappeared persons themselves when they resurfaced. Many have testified in court that they were tortured in various torture cells run by the state intelligence agencies. But the courts have consistently shown their inability to call the officials of the intelligence agencies.
In a country where the rule of law is limited upon the ordinary citizens particularly, to poor people the law enforcement agencies enjoy impunity. Therefore there would be no question of freedom, liberty, freedom of expression, respect of humanity and even right to life.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Pakistan to constitute a high powered judicial commission to probe the unconstitutional and illegal conduct of state intelligence agencies and particularly about the involvement of ISI and the running of its torture cells and illegal detention centres.
The AHRC further urges the government to prosecute the officers of ISI who kept Mr. Mohammad Iqbal Awan in illegal detention and tortured him for five years. The torture he suffered has left him disabled, probably for the rest of his life. The government and the Pakistan army should compensate him and provide necessary medical treatment.