PAKISTAN: 52 illegal torture and detention centres identified
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has collected details of detention and torture centres in Pakistan, where missing persons are held for long periods of time in order to force them to confess their involvement in terrorist and sabotage activities. The information about the places of illegal detention was collected from the persons who were detained in these centres for several years after arrest. Their whereabouts were never made known to their family members.
Now journalists, human rights organisations and the families of the victims gathered and contributed information to reveal the places of detention of these 'missing persons'. Persons released from these centres are often abandoned on the roadside. Many of them were released after the active interventions of the higher judiciary, particularly by deposed Chief Justice Mr. Iftekhar Choudry.
Many of the missing persons have testified in courts and to the media that they were kept in the custody by the army and that they were tortured. For further information please see: UG-003-2006, UA- 227-2006, UG-013-2006, UA-145-2006, UP-127-2006, UA-171-2006, UA-169-2006, UA-132-2006 and UP-191-2006.
Military intelligence (MI), Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA), Pakistan Rangers, and the Frontier Constabulary (FC) are the main agencies who are keeping persons incommunicado and who torture them to confess their involvement in anti-state activities.
It is interesting to note that the army officials are interrogating persons from Balochistan to force a confession admitting their involvement with the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and those arrested from Sindh about their involvement with the Sindh Liberation Army (SLA). The military rulers are certain that both these organisations are working to disassociate themselves from Pakistan.
Arrestees from the North West Frontier Province were initially held in the custody of the army before being transferred to Afghanistan. There, after going through severe torture and being held incommunicado, many of them were handed over to the occupied forces, to be again transferred to Guantanamo Bay, the notorious American holding/interrogating centre. The Pakistan army was the beneficiary of this whole episode and this is the reason why the western countries never criticised the government of Pakistan on the issue of missing persons.
The newly elected government has totally ignored the issue of missing persons. It has not started to probe the issue of missing persons despite several persons, who were kept incommunicado in military detention, have testified before the courts that they were kept in army camps and tortured severely.
There still remain several thousands of persons who have been missing since 2001 and the seemingly callous attitude of the government is creating a sense of depression and disappointment in the people. And these are the people who elected the ruling coalition expecting a change in the country.
The AHRC urges the international community, particularly the UN Human Rights Council and other international human rights groups to intervene in the cases of missing persons of Pakistan who are still being held incommunicado by the law enforcement agencies. There is a high risk of many of them disappearing soon if action is not taken quickly.
The following is a list of some of the illegal detention centres. There are still hundreds of human rights activists held in torture centres according to local human rights organisations, media and nationalist and political groups. It is believed that there are 52 such torture centres in Pakistan:
Islamabad, capital of Pakistan
(1) Sector I-9 Islamabad; (2) Cell 20 in Sector I-9 Islamabad; (3) 'safe house' of the ISI, Islamabad
- In Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, there are three detention centres of the army. They are: (1) the centre of MI at Shar-e-Faisal, Saddar, near Hotel Holiday Inn; (2) the torture and detention centre of the ISI is also in this vicinity which could be accessed through the St. Paul's School; (3) in Malir cantonment area in one of the 'safe houses' with several small cells
In Karachi, the Pakistan Rangers is also running a detention centre at Landhi. However the actual location is not confirmed as the persons released from there were kept blindfolded all the time.
- In Hyderabad, Sindh province, at the cantonment area, at the Army House, off Qasim Chowk
- Jacobabad is the border district with Balochistan province. This city is providing the United States Air Force and the NATO air support facilities. There is a detention centre run by the Pakistan army which is used as a 'transit centre'. This centre was unearthed when two journalists of a prominent television channel spoke when they were recovered after several months of detention and torture allegedly for taking pictures of an airbase.
- In Balochistan province there are dozens of military detention centres, where people after their arrest, are detained and tortured to force confession statements about their alleged activities against the army in the province. Following are places in Balochistan province where Pakistan army and FC are running their torture and detention centres:
- Quli Camp Cantonment Queta, in the capital of Balochistan province. In front of this detention camp there is a mountain called as Koh-e-Murad (Dead Mountain) which has been taken over by the Pakistan Army and is used as a dumping area for some sensitive arms and ammunitions. According to local people, people are brought here and detained for several months.
- Safe house of the ISI at Khuzdar Cantonment area. The Khuzdar district is in southeast of the province and all detained or arrested persons by the state intelligence agencies from south and southeast districts are brought and kept over here. The place is notorious for torture.
- The fort at Turbat town, a sub-district of the province. This fort is used for keeping missing persons and still there are dozens of missing persons in the fort, but it is under the control of FC. In the port city of Gwadar there is one more camp used by the FC for keeping people in illegal detention for several months.
- In the northern part of the Balochistan province, there are several places of detention and torture in three districts namely - Sibi, Dera Bugti and Kohlu. Here, the military have their own bases and camps. But in military terms these army centres are called "settlements" instead of cantonments. In these districts the persons arrested are mainly from the central and the northern parts. The main military detention centres are in Loti gas field, Pir Koh gas field and Dera Bugti gas field.
Most of the detainees are local residents of the above named districts. They are charged with mutiny against the 'army control' of the districts, blowing up of the main gas supply line to the other parts of the country, sabotage, bomb attacks on military installations, affiliation with different nationalist parties and association with the Balochistan Liberation Army.
In Kohlu district's military settlement there is one check post. This is purely run by the army which has torture cells. In Sui sub-district there is also a military check post which runs torture cell besides a main detention centre in the "settlement" at Sui gas field.
- In Punjab, there are two main cantonment areas where detention and torture centres are maintained only for the purpose of keeping "missing persons". These centres are Multan and Rawalpindi cantonment areas. These areas are close to the General Head Quarter (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army. The Rawalpindi cantonment based detention centre is in 'safe house' which is said to be the most cruel among all army detention centres. Still there are more than four dozens of missing persons who are kept since several months in these centres. It is said to be that it is here persons who are 'hard to crack' are kept, who had not confessed during the torture in other detention centres.
There are more centres of detention in Rawalpindi city which are maintained in hospitals. Here, people from the North-West Frontier Province and those alleged as Jihadis are kept besides the nationalists from the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. In the Multan cantonment, the 'safe houses' meant for rest houses, are used as detention centres and much of the so called high profile terrorists are detained.
The following detention centres in Rawalpindi and Islamabad were revealed by Mrs. Amina Masood Paracha, the Chair Person of an NGO named Defense Human Rights, Islamabad:
- ISI Detention Centre in Kent Garrison Chaklala (near Rawalpindi airport)
- ISI Detention Centre behind the Military Hospital in Rawalpindi - Hamza Centre (Ojri Camp Rawalpindi)
- FIA Centre near Qasim Market
- Chaklala Airbase Rawalpindi
- Military hospitals on Mall Road Rawalpindi
- Hamza Centre - Ojri Camp Faizabad - Rawalpindi
In Dera Ghazi Khan and Rahim Yar Khan districts there are detention centres at the cantonments. When in 2004, 13 students from Balochistan, belonging to the Baloch Students' Organization were detained at the Dera Ghazi Khan Cantonment detention centre for almost five months and tortured, this centre was exposed. It is still functioning and it is infamous for dumping tortured people on the roadside when it is confirmed that the victim cannot survive further torture.
- The cantonment areas of Peshawar and Chirat are used as detention centres for keeping arrested persons from areas dominated by fundamentalists Islamic forces.
There are 48 cantonments in Pakistan which all have illegal detention centres that operate as torture cells. All these cantonments have rest-houses which are called 'safe houses' that has been converted into illegal detention centres.
Now that these places of detention and torture are identified, there is no excuse for the Government of Pakistan to ignore it. Yet this is precisely what it happening. The AHRC urges the international community and the UN to intervene in this situation calling upon the government to investigate about the existence of these centres in the country and to immediately release the prisoners held therein.