The state of Pakistan has a long history of using torture as a tool of intimidation against political dissidents, human rights defenders, and journalists. Human rights activists have long asked for the state to undertake institutional reforms that allow the use of torture in the criminal justice system.
In a recent statement, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while welcoming the passage of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2021, noted that the “bill is a long overdue step towards criminalising what is, regrettably, an endemic practice. Ideally, legislation against torture should have been made part of the Pakistan Penal Code. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the bill provides a comprehensive definition of torture, includes custodial sexual violence within the ambit of custodial torture, and gives the National Commission for Human Rights jurisdiction to investigate cases of torture once it has set up the necessary infrastructure.”
However, HRCP expressed concern that “the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been given primary jurisdiction to investigate complaints against torture-related offences. The evidence suggests that the FIA has perpetrated acts of torture itself and its current structure must be reformed to ensure that it does not collude with other state agencies to tacitly enable the use of torture as a tool of criminal investigation.”