In a historic moment that many thought would never been seen in our lifetime, the US government released the results of a secret investigation into allegations of torture by CIA. The shocking report has placed the CIA chief under immense pressure for covering up alleged abuses and officials are now calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. The popular reaction to this report is that America has ‘lost moral high ground‘. There is no question that torture is morally unjustifiable, but there is something to be said for admitting when you have a problem and working to change it. With that said, when will Islamabad follow suit?
The only truly surprising thing about the CIA torture report is that it was released. The allegations have been talked about openly for years. Before we condemn the CIA too loudly, though, we should think about our own complicity in their crimes. Taliban militants have long complained about ISI torture cells, and a report released by a human rights group last year exposed cooperation between CIA and ISI in interrogating militants.
However it is not just militants who have alleged torture at the hands of ISI. Relatives of missing persons from Balochistan undertook a long march across Pakistan this year in a desperate attempt to bring attention to the thousands of Pakistanis who have gone missing. ISI apologists excuse the agency’s excesses in Balochistan by claiming that they are fighting separatist insurgency, even though this strategy was a complete failure in 1971. Protests continue till this day, but agencies continue to stall and refuse to cooperate.
Journalists too have allegedly suffered torture and worse at the hands of our national agencies. Saleem Shahzad‘s murder may have been one of the more famous allegations of ISI torture of journalists, but it is hardly the only one.
Revelations about CIA’s acts have damaged the credibility and moral high ground that America claims to hold over the world, but the truth is that by releasing the CIA torture report, Washington has begun the process of repairing that damage and, most importantly, preventing similar abuses from taking place in the future. As Pakistanis, we should be asking when our government will do the same.