Missing prisoners: Skeletons with urine bags

Published: February 22, 2012

Policemen escort men, seen draped in a shawl, after an appearance at the Supreme Court in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

For many the media is a watchdog, but some want to make it a scapegoat to achieve their short-term personal goals. The prevailing crises in the country have also increased the challenges for the media to maintain its credibility and impartiality.

I have no words to highlight the threats made to media people by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, or certain terrorist groups. But today I still have something to say.

One of the country’s top lawyers, defending the prime minister in a contempt of court case, also accused the media of negatively portraying the issue. “Don’t get into this controversy, they are half-literate,” was the reply of one of the honourable judges.

To report the plight of the missing prisoners was another test for the media. Reporters who had assembled outside the courtroom of a missing persons hearing were ‘advised’ by intelligence officials to “report the issue in a balanced way”. However, when the reporters asked them (the intelligence sleuths) of their own conduct with the ‘terrorists’, they had no answers.

I was there and will never forget the agonies of the missing prisoners who were brought before the court. Most of them appeared to be skeletons, and were holding urine bags, presumably because they had lost control of their bodily functions in captivity. And then I saw this crying woman whose two sons were among the skeleton-like prisoners, and she wouldn’t stop weeping.

Even if these people were suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, they did not deserve this kind of treatment. They should have been either charged with the crime or freed. And so if those whose job it is to uphold the law start doing what the terrorists do, then what is the difference between them and the latter?

In the hearing itself, the lawyer for the various intelligence agencies who had been made respondents in the petition submitted in writing to the court that the media and civil society were portraying them negatively, almost as if they were enemies.

So while much is made of the media being a very important pillar of today’s society – and there is no doubt that it is – people should realise that there is also immense pressure on it from various actors.

Azam Khan

Azam Khan

An Islamabad based reporter for The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.wowelldone.blogspot.com Sadaf

    Quoting from the text : And so if those whose job it is to uphold the law start doing what the terrorists do, then what is the difference between them and the latter?

    Reminds me of the Hollywood movie , Unthinkable …Recommend

  • Pakistani

    I am changing my ID right now, next time I will not comment from the ID “Pakistani”. I feel ashamed after hearing so much news of brutality, anti human acts of Pakistani agencies.Recommend

  • syed hussain

    You intend to change ur id because of the anti human acts of our agencies (no doubt these are anti human rights) but i would appreciate if you change your new id too, because of the terrorist acts of these people when they are free in our society.

    Mr Azam Khan, you write,

    ”Even if these people were suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, they did not deserve this kind of treatment. They should have been either charged with the crime or freed.

    I ask you what type of treatment they deserve if they are involved in terrorist activities. Why do you have sympathy for those persons who have killed thousands of innocent people,destroyed hundreds of families. Why do our agencies keep them detained(illegally), wasting their energies,time and money even if they are innocent. What do you expect them to do if they are freed. Plz visit those families who have lost their loved ones and plz write on the plight of those families also. Don’t only portray one side of the picture plz.They are not proved guilty in the court room because no witness wants to stand against them because of their threats but it does not make them innocent angel.Recommend

  • Ich Dien

    @syed hussain:
    I doubt anyone has sympathy for any Terrorist but one thing we all have sympathy for is the law. How about religion, Islam says there is death penalty for those who kill innocent but it no where it says that you torture them within an inch of their life and than execute them. The terrorists must be brought before the court with proof of their crime not just because you and i know it in our heart that they are criminals is not sufficient. Are you 100% certain that all the people gone missing are terrorists and their supporters and not one single one of them was innocent than there is no problem but even if one single innocent person was picked up and killed by our protectors than what?? Recommend

  • http://truthexposed123.blogspot.com Truth Exposed

    USA, UK and few EU countries are backing these terrorists. They are behind TTP and BLA.
    This is the reason that human right NGOs are crying for these people Recommend

  • http://truthexposed123.blogspot.com Truth Exposed

    So you want these terrorists to be free and given an AK-47 with half dozen grenades and a suicide vest???? so that they can begin their job again???
    Judiciary has failed to bring terrorists to what they deserve. So now agencies have to do this now.
    What if these agencies stop doing this? what will be the situation in Pakistan?Recommend

  • http://google.com ABC

    one latest and brutal example of our judicial and agencies failure is the release of once most wanted terrorist of Pakistan is Malik Ishaq… wot would you say about it?Recommend

  • Kafka

    Almulk-o-yabq maal kufr-e wala yabqa maazzulm (Hazrat Ali RA). A country can survive with heathenism but cannot survive with oppression. Recommend

  • طفیل

    Malik Ishaq is the puppet of ISIRecommend

  • syed hussain

    @Ich Dien:
    These prisoners were presented before anti terrorist court. Later they were released by high court due to insufficient evidence because court ask for the witness and no witness wants to stand against them because of the threats to them and their families. It is not hidden truth that they even threaten to the judges in the court room so in such a scenario due to insufficient evidence their lawyer easily bring them out.The problem is not with agencies, the problem is with law. There is flaw in our law,the burden of proof lies on the prosecutor and unfortunately the prosecutor is not that much strong or efficient in Pakistan. Still there is a bill pending in Pakistan Senate for the amendment of the law. If agencies keep them detained(illegally), they do it for our security. If they let them go free, what they gonna do again, blowing up our cities, killing your and mine loved ones and then again we will point our fingers towards law enforcing agencies. If they were innocent then agencies never had to keep them detained illegally inviting the wrath of the Supreme court and criticism from media. The DG’s of agencies including ISI had to receive the notice from supreme court, if they were innocent why would the DG’s of agencies would involve them in such a practice that would malign their position. of course their detention does not comply with law but we should not ignore the other aspect also that what gonna happen if they are freed free only due to flaws in our laws.Recommend

  • http://struggle.com.pk/ Imran Kamyana

    Can anyone answer this:

    “. . . . it is pertinent to note that the day the Adiala Seven were presented before the SC, the bullet-riddled body of Sangat Sana was found dumped at Murgat in Turbat. Thirty bullets were found pumped into his chest. The media did not denounce Sangat Sana’s inhuman murder. Only a few seconds were given to the news of his murder and within hours, his news disappeared from the media.”

    “The difference between the Adiala Seven and the hundreds of Sangats is that the former are Punjabis and Deobandis and the latter are Baloch and secular. The Punjabi conscience is hurt when a Punjabi is tortured even if he belongs to a terrorist organisation ”



  • http://gmail malik

    This is due to our weak law secondly judges dont have the courage to punish the terroristsRecommend

  • citizen

    shocked ! This is so in human. We have 2nd Guantanamo bay, here in Pakistan :(Recommend

  • Umar Farooq Khawaja

    @syed hussain: Did you read your own comment while writing it? The burden of proof is ALWAYS with the prosecutor. In every civilised society in this world, including Islam. In fact, for serios crimes with capial punishment, the standard Of proof required is even higher, for example, to stone someone for zina, you must provide four eye witnesses, not just two. Recommend

  • Ich Dien

    @syed hussain:
    my very belated reply is a simple quote by Benjamin Franklin who said:
    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    If problem is with law than make new law, if that is not being done blame the legislators (who never delay a bill regarding increase in their own perks). If no witnesses than again giving protection to witness is also job of the same agencies and also if our ppl are so afraid than do we deserve the freedom and peace we yarn for?? Name one society where the burden of proof is on the accused? it is always prosecution who has to prove the guilt (without any doubt) till than its simply “INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY BY A COURT OF LAW”.Recommend