ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Wednesday directed the country’s interior ministry to probe allegations that former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide, Dr. Shahbaz Gill, was tortured in police custody.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party says Gill, who is under arrest and faces sedition charges, has been tortured in police custody. Gill was arrested on August 9 for allegedly making anti-military comments on a TV channel that was subsequently suspended by the government. He was admitted to a government hospital in the capital last week after his health deteriorated in police custody.
The Pakistan government and police deny Gill was tortured.
In a 21-page order from the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Acting Chief Justice Aamir Farooq took notice of the “very serious issue” of Gill’s allegations and said the matter couldn’t “simply be ignored as it can entail serious consequences for future investigations.”
“It would be only appropriate that Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan should look into the matter [Gill’s alleged torture] and appoint an Inquiry Officer preferably a retired Judge of the High Court to examine the issue,” the order read.
It directed the inquiry officer to make detailed findings on the issue and also suggest ways to “curb the practice” of torture.
Justice Farooq said torture to extract evidence is prohibited in Pakistan’s constitution.
“Much judicial ink has been expended safeguarding the rights of the prisoners and accused persons and to protect them from torture,” he wrote.
A medical board at the Pakistan Institute of Management Sciences (PIMS) on August 18 suggested that Gill needed to be monitored and assessed by a cardiologist and pulmonologist. It added that Gill had a “known case of asthma since childhood” and now presented with shortness of breath, body aches including left shoulder, back, neck, right gluteal region and left sided chest pain.
While Pakistan’s constitution prohibits the use of torture “for extracting evidence,” no domestic legislation makes committing torture a criminal offense. Pakistan is a party to core international human rights treaties that prohibit the use of torture and other ill-treatment and mandate parties to the treaty to criminalize the practice.