ISLAMABAD – In order to create awareness and sensitization regarding the issue of torture in police custody across the country, the Individulland Pakistan (IL-Pakistan), a non-profit organization, on Saturday constituted a National Committee Against Torture (NCAT) comprising 24 journalists from 11 different cities.

The IL Pakistan constituted NCAT during a two-day training workshop of selected 24 journalists titled “Sensitizing media on the issue of torture” was organized by the Individualland Pakistan with a national footprint; along with the partnership of Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) after conducting training of journalists belonging to print and electronic media in the 11 cities of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad Peshawar, Mardan, Quetta and Pishin during the first phase of the project.

The objectives of the initiative are to sensitize the media regarding the subject of torture and help eradicate the practice of torture from the state structures. The training focused on the criminal justice system, understandings of legal and human rights activists on the subject of torture. The committee will work on a national level, having the objective to map and document torture cases in their respective areas, while reporting on them.

The workshop also constituted Provincial Committee Against Torture (PACT) in each province, which consists of at least five members each and will have the responsibility of documenting and reporting incidents of torture, while creating awareness and sensitization regarding torture. They will also spread awareness on reporting torture and understanding torture in the Criminal Justice System to other colleagues in the print media.

The committees will have a combined meeting at the end of each month, where they will discuss the progress on the project/action plan. The committees will also report their progress and documented incidents of torture, to the NCAT facilitation desk in Islamabad at Individualland’s Office. The workshops selected Irshad Mastoi from Quetta as a National Coordinator and Jaffar Mehmand from Hyderabad as a Deputy National Coordinator.

A facilitation desk will have the responsibility of coordination with the committees, while also assisting them in acquiring their objectives. The desk will have the further task of highlighting the issue of torture and torture related incidents, on a national scale. Project Coordinator Shaukat Ali Ashraf IL Pakistan, while sharing results of Base Line Survey Report conducted in 11 cities, said that violence and torture are two different phenomenons.

He said that high percentage of journalists was of the view that use of torture is justified. 18.11 percent of the total respondent added that torture is completely justified while 46.3 per cent added that at some times it can be justified.

He said that domestic violence, which unfortunately is common practice in Pakistan, also does not come under the category of torture, but journalists usually consider it as torture because of the obvious lake of knowledge on the chapter. According to the survey, out of 276 respondents journalists surveyed, 66 per cent of the respondents were of the view that women are mostly subjected to torture whereas 34 percent thought that men are subjected to torture.

The IL coordinator said that Pakistan is among those countries, where torture is used by state officials as a systematic instrument to extract evidence from suspects of different crimes. Amnesty International estimated that more than 100 persons die in police custody each year in Pakistan.

“Citizens cannot do much about this obnoxious state’s activity however there is one institution that can play a critical role in controlling it and it is “media”.

In addition to highlighting torture cases and torturers that are involved, they can also focus their reporting on how citizens can protect themselves from torture under the existing circumstances”, he said.

Journalists from various print, electronic and broadcast organizations stressed to train the media persons, police officials and lower judiciary on the issue of torture. There is lake awareness, especially in the rural areas regarding the issue of torture in custody, they said.

They said that there is a lot more work remains to be done in Pakistan in terms of legislation against torture. Journalists said that media should be cautious while reporting issues of torture.