The Rebel Road…

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

Shameful treatment.

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Mr. Munir A. Malik, ex-president Supreme Court Bar Council and advocate for the now-deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan and who was arrested on November 3rd after the promulgation of emergency and the ensuing PCO, was recently transferred from his prison cell in Attock Jail to a hospital room in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) for emergency treatment for a malfunction of his kidneys, i.e. renal failure. Many questions regarding this news item are enshrouded in confusion but one stands our prominently — why would a person who has no history of such a malady need emergency treatment for the same after a prolonged incarceration? This is a question that is, at best, troubling. Reports from inside sources at PIMS have stated that Mr. Munir’s condition was ‘acute’ and ‘life threatening’ when he got there. The doctors attributed this to either criminal negligence on the part of the police officials or gross misconduct. However, the severity and nature of the malfunction leaves it open to interpretation. It has been seen in previous cases of physical torture that renal failure is one of the first conditions that develop as a result. It is for this reason that one is reluctant to throw the ‘physical torture’ theory out the window in spite of the fact that Mr. Munir stated that he was subjected to psychological and not physical torture. Mr. Munir also emphasised that the lawyer’s struggle had entered a new phase and that the lawyers should adopt new tactics in their struggle for democracy – especially given the promulgation of the newly amended Bar Council Ordinance (BCO), which empowers the state to take action against lawyers charged with misconduct.

Mr. Munir is one of four eminent advocates, all of whom were linked to the Chief Justice’s restoration struggle, who were incarcerated on November 3rd — the other three being Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd, Justice (Retd.) Tariq Mahmood and Aitzaz Ahsan. There are persistent rumours that Mr. Kurd and Justice Mahmood have been subjected to barbaric physical torture. These rumours are lent credence by the fact that Justice (Retd.) Tariq Mahmood too has been shifted to Services Hospital from jail in ‘critical condition’ on the night of November 25th. Furthermore, no family members or media personnel have been allowed to visit him either in jail or hospital. Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan was seen in public on November 25th when he came to submit his nomination papers under police guard. He appeared visibly ‘pale and weakened’, according to eye witnesses, as he was escorted to and from the Sessions Court, Lahore, having been shifted to house arrest from Adiyala Jail.

While reports that Mr. Munir Malik’s detention orders have been withdrawn are an encouraging development, it is disturbing that extremely upright and respected professionals of this country are mysteriously ending up on hospital beds in critical condition – all this after a stay in jail. This, at the very least, goes against the government claims that the incarcerated professionals were being given every available amenity to ‘ease’ their ‘stay’. Admittedly, the country is in a state of emergency and all fundamental rights have been suspended. However, on no basis of historical precedent or common morality can a government take part in or allow torture of its citizens – especially up to the point that their internal organs either malfunction or stop working altogether, necessitating their being rushed to the nearest medical facility.

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