new torture terms devised by the Pakistani police

Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder. ~ Percy Shelley (The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Verse and Prose, edited by H. Buxton Forman. )

IN CASE YOU ARE WONDERING WHAT the culinary term connotes, it is a new colloquialism used by law enforcement agencies in Pakistan, particularly the police in the Sindh province, to indicate the state of a suspect. The term “half fry” is colloquial for maiming a person for life. For example, if the police officers are convinced that the arrested suspect is involved in crimes the suspect will be shot in the leg to render them disabled before being sent to jail. This practice of maiming suspects gained notoriety during the tenure of former SSP Farid Jan Sarhandi of Hyderabad. The term “full-fry” on the other hand is used when the person is extra judicially murdered.

The use of the term “full-fry” to indicate extrajudicial killings showcases how common and open this outrageous practice by law enforcement officials has become. The formation of the Apex Committee in Sindh Province, ushering increased presence of the military and the Pakistan Rangers, has made the terms “half-fry” and “full-fry” common in the ranks of the police and other law enforcement agencies. The Apex Committee was formed to control serious crimes like terrorism, abduction, extortion, and target killings. Yet, the result has been a tremendous upsurge in extrajudicial killings.

This rising trend in the Sindh province sees innocent people abducted by the police and killed in fake encounters. As per Chairperson Pakistan People’s Party Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB), more than 700 innocent people have been killed by the police in fake encounters since the promulgation of Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO).

The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sindh, Sanaullah Abbasi, upon being asked about the legality of the “half-fry full-fry” formula in a press briefing last year, said he was confident that society had come to accept the “formula”. In a press briefing on 7 March, 2015 he claimed that extrajudicial killings are the best modus operandi to curb crime. The official was quoted by print media saying that “Extrajudicial killings and other actions cannot be justified officially but society has come to accept this ‘modus operandi’ of police to eradicate crimes and make streets safer. It is not necessary for an encounter to be seen as genuine only if a policeman loses his life in it. You can see police have restored peace and order in the city through this modus operandi.”

He also claimed that Districts of Sindh Province such as Hyderabad and Khairpur had become model districts — thanks to this ‘modus operandi’. “If this [formula] continues then I can assure you that we will be able to create ideal conditions in crime control,” said the officer.

During the briefing the Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Irfan Baloch referred to his brave actions of “half-fry” and claimed that during the first quarter of 2015, 73 suspects were “arrested” after they fell “injured” in encounters. He warned, “Remember, none of them [suspects] can obtain bail. We have made a strong case to ensure they were denied any chance of getting bail”. The Inspector General of Police Ghulam Haider Jamali, told a meeting at the Central Police Office that the police had killed around 998 criminals since July 2014.

Under Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan it is incumbent upon the state to ensure the safety and security of the people. The right to life as enumerated by the Supreme Court in Shezla Zia vs WAPDA case expanded this meaning to signify a dignified life free from fear of being killed. Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, the country’s largest metropolis, is a hub of extrajudicial killings. It has been listed as the 10th most violent city of the world, according to Al Jazeera, with a murder rate of 12.3 per 100,000 residents. Yet, the Sindh Cabinet, on 11 February 2015, was briefed by the IGP Ghulam Hyder Jamali, who assured members that the crime rate had declined significantly in the Province.

The Jacobabad police officers are notorious for extortion and bribery, targeting innocent citizens and implicating them in frivolous cases. A victim of “half fry”, Naved Ahmed Dangar, was shot and maimed for life by the Head Constable of City Police Station Jacobabad. Naved has accused the police officer of torture and extortion in a video that went viral on social media.

The rampant corruption in Sindh Police is an open secret. While hearing an application on 1 August, 2015 regarding the withholding of funds meant for the police’s investigation wing, the Supreme Court (SC) observed that the level of corruption in the Sindh police had increased threefold. An internal inquiry conducted by the Sindh police department has identified more than 50 SHOs involved in cases of crime. Nearly a dozen of them have links with political parties and members of the Lyari (a no go area in the metropolis of Karachi )-based gangs as well as been accused of sheltering criminals affiliated with political parties and being involved in crimes such as targeted killing, extortion, robbery and land grabbing.

Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2010, but no concrete steps have been taken to enact a law. A draft Anti-Torture Bill that purports to curb torture is eyewash, existing only to dodge pressure from the international community. In Pakistan the justice system is riddled with gaping problems related to fair trial — with conviction after conviction based on statements extracted through torture or other forms of ill-treatment. A staggering proportion of the accused have reported facing custodial torture, which is a serious indictment of due process of law in Pakistan and the fairness of its criminal justice system.

Custodial torture in Pakistan is treated as an inevitable part of crime investigation. Investigators adhere to the notion that if enough pressure is applied, the accused will confess. Nepotism, corruption, torture, misuse of power and illegal detention form the crux of what is the criminal justice system in Pakistan. Torture is often used to extract self-implicating confessional statements from suspects who are innocent. In the absence of modern forensic tools, the judiciary and prosecution rely upon confessional statements. These statements are never crosschecked against available circumstantial evidence, with the result that torture is the only tool available to police. The criminal justice system in the country is therefore no more an aid nor a means to seek justice; for many it is a labyrinth from which there is no escape.

According to figures compiled by several human rights organisations, over 30 people have lost their lives and around 150 have been injured in fake encounters. Such extrajudicial killings and torture are undermining the credibility of police action and creating mistrust amongst the local populace of Sindh, particularly residents of Hyderabad. Media reports quote forensic doctors saying that police on occasion bring in bullet-riddled bodies, shot at close range. Many times, the doctors have removed handcuffs of the victims of police encounter.

On 3 July, 2015 a final year University student, Toqier Mashori, was tortured to death in the Central Prison of Hyderabad, Sindh, within three days of his arrest. His family was asked by the police and prison authorities to pay large bribes for Mashori’s relief, or else he would be “full fried”. Two of his fellow students were released after they paid the bribes. The victims were taken into custody on charges of preventing the police from performing their duty. However, when the family could not comply with the bribe demand, Mashori was booked in a case involving drug peddling. The victim was continuously tortured for three days, up to 18 hours a day. The torturers put him in conditions of scorching heat and beat him mercilessly. His corpse bears the marks of torture. Senior police officials pressured the family to bury the corpse, without a post mortem.

According to the yearly report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) around 60 people who were wounded in separate encounters with the Rangers and police have been lying without any proper medical assistance at the Karachi central prison. If the suspect survives, conditions in the central jail make it difficult for them to survive for long, as there is no proper medical assistance. Suspects who had been held during the joint operations led by the Rangers and police were subsequently killed.

The police and other law enforcement agencies in Pakistan are given unbridled power under the guise of maintaining of law and order. When a country has police officers who abuse citizens, it erodes public confidence in law enforcement resulting in further chaos and ultimately anarchy. Judges and murderers all rolled into one, these extrajudicial killers in uniform need to be held accountable for their actions.