The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

Rumours of torture.

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The Pakistani public has been hearing all sorts of reports regarding the mistreatment and manhandling of various human rights activists, political figures, lawyers, journalists, students, etc. Sometimes such reports are supported by pictographic evidence, at other times the reports are merely the result of over-active imaginations or over-ambitious individuals. In either event, all such speculation is leading to greater and ever-growing discontent within the Pakistani citizenry.

There are numerous examples that can be quoted to this effect, the most recent one of Imran Khan, ex-cricketing superstar and leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI). Imran Khan has been a prominent name in the list of the government’s opponents. Ever since the declaration of Emergency on November 3 by General Pervez Musharraf, this opposition has gained greater breadth and depth. With most of the very vocal opposition behind bars in order to maintain public through the use of the MPO, Imran Khan was one of the few leading figures still at large. This changed on November 14 when Imran Khan was scheduled to lead a student protest on the PU Campus. While hundreds of students came out to support him, so did student members of the (in)famous Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba. After disrupting the peaceful protest and beating up several cadres of the PTI – including several unaligned PU students – the IJT targeted Imran Khan directly and subjected him to kidnapping and torture. The Jamiat had already earned a mantle of (dis)honour – a ‘high’ merit among the retrogressive and mafia-like organisations of the world – previously. But this one act has lowered its repute to a hitherto unattained low. According to a newspaper report, the IJT conspired with police authorities to capture Mr. Khan. The whole ‘bad jamiati-good jamiati’ drama, in reference to one group of the Jamiat students protesting their brethren’s embarrassing actions, is little more than face saving tactics. However, as is true with most face saving tactics, all this is too little too late. This act of the Jamiat – a ‘student’ organisation which has assumed complete control of the PU for many years now – has finally gone too far. Today the students of the PU are in an uproar against the years-long tyranny of the Jamiat.

The eventual fate of prisoners such as Imran Khan, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Ali Ahmed Kurd, and Justice Tariq Mehmood, is still unclear as no one (neither media personnel nor family members) is allowed access to them. There have been reports that the Chief Justice’s lawyers are facing horrendous torture for going against the will of the government and in the government’s view, efforts to incite violence and civil disobedience in the land. Imran Khan was recently transferred to a prison in Dera Ghazi Khan – a prison notorious for its torture of prisoners, especially political prisoners. Without the amenities accorded to jailed political figures, Imran has joined the ranks of some 4,000-5,000 political detainees being held all over Pakistan. While it is understandable that individuals like Imran Khan and Aitzaz Ahsan have presented stiff opposition to the present regime, it must be kept in mind that democracy is the art of tolerating all voices and opinions, especially those that are against one’s own. For this reason the government would be well-advised to make efforts to stop such incidents of torture, if indeed they are taking place, and if not release, allow access to the detainees by family and lawyers so that their well being can be ensured; in doing so, at the very least, the rumours regarding their torture, and the unrest they cause, may be laid to rest.

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