Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Recent Reports 
 Support HRW 
About HRW
Site Map

Human Rights Watch - Home Page


Since October 1999, police, paramilitary, and military personnel have detained scores of leaders and activists of different political parties. The arrests, made in response to statements critical of the military takeover or to forestall public demonstrations in opposition to the government, have been effected under laws governing sedition and the maintenance of public order, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Act. The crackdown has also been facilitated by a nationwide ban on public gatherings that was imposed on March 15, 2000, and remains in force. These developments have severely limited the scope for party activism and have directly gone against Musharraf's pledge to uphold the fundamental rights of free expression and assembly as provided for in Pakistan's constitution. The experience of Rana Sanaullah Khan is illustrative of the impunity and at times brutality with which the Musharraf government has treated outspoken opponents.

Rana Sanaullah Khan
Sanaullah, a practicing lawyer and PML member of the suspended Punjab provincial assembly, was arrested and tortured in custody after he sharply criticized the military government during a meeting of former legislators in November 1999. The meeting had been convened at the residence of Chaudhary Parvez Illahi, the former speaker of the Punjab assembly, in Lahore on November 25. The following day a criminal case under the sedition law, Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, and Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, was registered against Sanaullah at Ghalib Market police station.

Human Rights Watch has obtained a copy of the First Information Report filed in the case, which states:

During the meeting, Rana Sanaullah, former MPA [Member of the Provincial Assembly] from Faisalabad and the nearby vicinity, severely criticized the events of October 12 and said that the army on October 12 killed democracy, [and that] there was no justification or authority under the constitution or the law for such acts. Those present at the meeting delivered provocative speeches and spread hatred against the government.

Rana Sanaullah said that the army thinks the country is like a bicycle; whenever they want, they ride it, and whenever they want, they will get off it. He further said that the army is creating hardships for democracy and the Muslim League. Former MPA Muhammad Khoro read things against the government from printed literature and announced that this literature will be distributed throughout the country. At the end of the meeting, Rana Sanaullah came to the gate and incited his colleagues against the government, and announced plans to end the government, and exhorted his colleagues to launch a protest movement against the government.42

Even this official account of events suggests that Sanaullah did nothing more at the meeting than peacefully express his opposition to army rule. According to Sanaullah, a heavy contingent of police headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Tariq Kamboah, surrounded his house in Faisalabad three days later on November 28, stormed into his bedroom, and took him away. The arrest was supervised by the superintendent of police for Faisalabad, Captain Saif, and the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Wasim Ajmal. "They locked me in a torture cell at Quilla Gojar Singh police station in Lahore," Sanaullah said.43 He told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

On the night of November 29, DSP Jamaat Ali Bukhari and Inspector llyas, leading ten to twenty armed men, entered my cell, put me in a jeep, and drove me toward the [Lahore] airport. The jeep stopped, they blindfolded and handcuffed me, and put me in another jeep. After driving ten to twelve kilometers they stopped at the Lahore Army Cantonment area, and took me off the jeep.

They put a rope through my handcuffs and hung me up by it, so that my feet could barely touch the ground. A person whose presence I could sense in front of me ordered, "Five-five." Within no time, cutting into the air, a whip hit my back. After he completed the first round of whipping, there was complete silence for five or ten minutes. A doctor checked my pulse and heart beat. The whipping man resumed and he did another four rounds. My back bled profusely, as I had been hit with a kaura [a leather strap] twenty times. He whipped me in such a way that my clothes stuck to my bleeding skin, and my skin and shreds of cloth came ripping off together. They made me lie on the floor with my back turned for hours.

It was 3:00 am when they brought me back to Quilla Gojar Singh police station. I was there until December 8. There was no sense of day or night, as the cell was lit [at all times] by a bare bulb. They would give me food only once a day. In twenty-four hours, maybe they would give me some tea.

They would take me blindfolded into another room for interrogation. From their way of talking, the interrogators sounded to me like army officials. DSP Bukhari told me that the head of the interrogation team was an army major named Saif, a member of a monitoring team who sits with the SSP [Senior Superintendent of Police] cantonment in Lahore.44

Sanaullah was shifted to Lahore Central Prison on December 8, after his colleagues filed a habeas corpus petition with the Lahore High Court.45 The court ordered a medical examination, which was conducted on December 15, 1999, at Lahore's government-run Services Hospital by a board that consisted of the hospital's medical superintendent, a surgeon, and a senior physician. According to the board's report, Sanaullah was brought to the hospital in police custody. While the board did not note injuries on Sanaullah's back that would have been indicative of whipping, it found twenty-eight bruises and abrasions on other parts of his body that it concluded were inflicted with a "blunt-edge weapon" two to three weeks prior to the examination, when he was in police custody.46

The Lahore High Court ordered Sanaullah's release on bail on January 5. When Human Rights Watch interviewed Sanaullah two months later, the case against him was still pending. "My telephone is being tapped, I am under constant surveillance by undercover men outside my residence, and officers are deputed by the military government to keep an eye on me," he said.47

Crackdown on Other PML Activists
Sharif's arrest and trial rent deep fissures within the PML leadership, with a dissident faction conspicuously refraining from supporting the former prime minister. At the same time, Kulsoom Nawaz, who had previously played no major role in party affairs, emerged as a galvanizing force for much of the PML rank and file. Along with Sharif loyalists in the party leadership, she organized a series of rallies in different cities of Pakistan during March that led to preemptive arrests by the police and the lodging of criminal cases against her and other PML leaders.

On March 10, cantonment police in Hyderabad registered criminal cases against Kulsoom Nawaz; Allah Bux Magsi, the district president of the PML; Shah Mohammad Shah, a Sindh province PML leader; Haleem Siddiqui, a former member of the National Assembly and minister in Sharif's government; former Sindh governor Mamnoon Hussain; and twelve other PML leaders for making "provocative" speeches at a party convention held the previous day at Magsi's residence. The cases were lodged under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, read together with sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the sedition law, and laws banning incitement to riot and promoting enmity between groups.48 Three days later, police in Karachi registered a case under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance against Shah Mohammad Shah, Haleem Siddiqui, Mamnoon Hussain, and thirty other PML members in connection with slogans that they had allegedly chanted during the funeral procession of Iqbal Raad, a defense attorney for Nawaz Sharif who had been assassinated on March 10 by unknown assailants in his law office in Karachi.49

Kulsoom Nawaz issued a call on March 13 for protests against Raad's assassination, to be held two days later. As a preemptive measure, police conducted midnight raids throughout Sukkur district on the night of March 14. Five PML activists were detained under Section 188 of the Penal Code and then released the following day. 50 The police succeeded in preventing any protest rally in the city or district from taking place.

The crackdown on PML activists widened after the government's March 15 ban on rallies. An attempt by Kulsoom Nawaz to lead a 500-kilometer procession from Lahore to Peshawar starting on July 8 resulted in a wave of arrests. In an attempt to forestall the procession, police conducted pre-dawn raids throughout the city on July 7, arresting 165 PML members by the official count and up to 300 according to PML leaders. Police said they were acting on the orders of the Punjab governor, Mohammad Safdar, who had declared that the planned procession would violate the ban on rallies.51 The following day, Kulsoom Nawaz was stopped in her car and arrested by police while trying to join the procession. After she refused to turn back or leave her car, police brought a crane to the site and hauled the vehicle into a police compound.52 On July 9, police armed with tear gas and shields surrounded the PML party headquarters in Rawalpindi, sealed off the exits, and forcibly entered the premises. Twenty-nine PML members present, who had gathered to discuss a response to the previous day's arrest of Kulsoom Nawaz, were detained under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.53

Mian Ejaz Shafi, a PML member of the suspended National Assembly, was detained by law enforcement authorities on July 29 in Islamabad, where he had traveled to attend a meeting of the PML central working committee. Shafi said he was released the following day, after the PML meeting had ended. He claimed that he had been held in a lockup for twenty-four hours, with his face covered and without access to food, water, or treatment for his diabetes.54

On August 11, police in different parts of Karachi arrested at least forty PML supporters ahead of a planned public meeting on Pakistan's independence day, PML sources told reporters. Police officials acknowledged having detained two provincial vice-presidents of the PML, Nihal Hashmi and Tariq Khan, under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.55

Arrests of JSQM and MQM Activists
Authorities also cracked down on the two major ethnic parties in Sindh province, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), detaining leaders and activists during raids on their homes and party offices, and preventing demonstrations from being held. The two parties, which respectively claim to represent Urdu-speakers whose families migrated from India after partition and the province's indigenous Sindhi-speaking population, entered into an alliance in 1998. By agreeing to temporarily set aside their differences, the parties quelled longstanding tensions between their activists and presented a broader opposition to the PML governments in Karachi and Islamabad. Both parties have also been strident in their criticism of the Musharraf administration and have held strikes and demonstrations against its economic policies and administrative measures. Although the JSQM and MQM share a history of involvement in ethnic and political violence, the acts for which their leaders and activists have been arrested by the military government include the legitimate, peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.

Azad Jamali, who runs the JSQM media center in Hyderabad, was arrested with party colleagues, Gul Bhatti, Latif Samon, Jamil Gadani, and Sulaiman Marri on November 13, 1999, in a paramilitary and police raid on the media center following a bomb blast in the city. He told Human Rights Watch that he was "shifted from one police station to the other," and finally held at the Khebrani forest police station.56 "They blindfolded me, kicked at my ribs, hung me upside down, and finally they inflicted cheera on me," Jamali said. Cheera is the forced stretching apart of the victim's legs, sometimes in combination with kicks to the genitalia.57 Despite the cold weather, Jamali added, he was forced to sleep on the bare floor of his cell. Jamali was set free on December 14 without being charged with the commission of any crime.58

JSQM Information Secretary Akash Mallah was arrested on February 8, 2000, in a subsequent raid on the JSQM media center. Mallah's family was not informed of his arrest or whereabouts for a week thereafter. On February 16, Mallah was produced before a magistrate at Hyderabad, after his attorney filed a habeas corpus petition before the Hyderabad circuit bench of the High Court of Sindh. The arrest date was falsely recorded in the First Information Report as February 15, apparently to conform with the Criminal Procedure Code's requirement that detainees be brought before a magistrate within twenty-four hours of their arrest. 59 At his appearance, Mallah claimed that he had been tortured by police and paramilitary rangers while in their custody. The trial judge ordered that he receive a medical examination at Liaquat Medical College Hospital (LMCH) in Hyderabad. According to a press report published in the Sindhi daily Kawish, the examining physicians found that Mallah had "acute swelling of his back and legs."60

The authorities in Sindh province launched a crackdown against activists and leaders of the JSQM and the MQM on February 19, 2000, after the two parties had jointly called for a strike-observed in many parts of the province-against the government's dismissal of 400 Pakistan Steel Mills employees. Paramilitary troops and rangers conducted search and siege operations in urban areas and searched for JSQM activists in rural areas of Sindh, resulting in the arrest of about forty activists.61

Police in Ghotki district detained the elderly father of Illahi Bux Chachar, the local JSQM leader, after they were unable to locate his son.62 In Karachi, heavy police contingents led by police superintendent Pir Farid Jan Sarhandi surrounded the Karachi Press Club, where JSQM leaders had planned to hold a demonstration against the steel workers' dismissal, the transfer of a motorway to federal administration, and the government's failure to provide Sindh with what the JSQM considered its due share of federal revenues. According to the Karachi daily News International, police beat JSQM leaders Bashir Qureishi, Zain Shah, and Ghulam Shah after they and other JSQM members broke through the police barricade and Qureishi began addressing the crowd. Thirty JSQM members, including the three party leaders, were taken into custody under Section 188 of the penal code. The same day, police stormed into Liaquat Hall at Jinnah Park in Karachi, and arrested MQM leaders Nasreen Jalil, Aftab Shaikh, Hasan Musanna Alvi, and Zahid Qureishi, who were holding a press conference there. Jalil was held at the women's police station in Karachi for forty-eight hours. 63

The JSQM and MQM called for further protests to be held on February 22 against the police violence of February 19 but withdrew their call after setting a deadline for the government to accept two demands: the release of jailed MQM leader Farooq Sattar (whose case is described below) and the reinstatement of laid-off Pakistan Steel Mills employees. Police and paramilitary rangers nevertheless took preventive action on the night of February 21, rounding up and detaining fifty-four JSQM and MQM activists. The activists were released the following day.64

Mansoor Marri, a member of the legal aid committee of the JSQM, told Human Rights Watch that several JSQM activists were stopped on April 25 at the Jamshoro Toll Plaza on the Hyderabad-Karachi motorway while returning from a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the Sindhi nationalist leader G. M. Syed in his native village of Saan. Three of the activists, Muhammad Ali Jamali, Punhal Larik, and Abdul Ghani Unar, were blindfolded, beaten, and detained, Marri said. He added that Jamali and Unar were later released, but Larik's whereabouts remained unknown as of April 28.65

Mukhi Namomal
While directed mainly at members of political parties, the Musharraf administration's crackdown on political activism has also embraced civil society actors who have challenged actions taken by the army or the military administration. A case in point is that of Mukhi Namomal, a Hindu community leader who was arrested in apparent retaliation for his advocacy on behalf of a community member whom army intelligence agents had detained.

On February 17, three vehicles carrying members of an army monitoring team and police personnel surrounded the Hindu mohalla (residential quarter) in the small town of Daharki, in Ghotki district in northern Sindh. They were led by Colonel Ahsan, Captain Nadeem, and two men in plainclothes. According to an eyewitness, army and police personnel stormed into the house of Namomal, a cotton factory owner and president of the Ghotki district Hindu Panchayat Committee. Brandishing weapons, they gathered all the women and children of the family into one room and started hitting the adult male family members with rifle butts, kicking them with their jackboots, and asking about Namomal. They then went upstairs to Namomal's bedroom, tied his hands behind his back, and blindfolded him. After searching the house for half an hour, they departed, taking Namomal with them. "His family and members of the community had no idea of his whereabouts or the charges against him," said an eyewitness. "Fifteen of us went to the office of the colonel in charge of the monitoring cell at Mirpur Mathelo district headquarters, but all of our pleas were ignored by the colonel," he added. "Instead, he threatened to throw us out of his office."66

A case of theft was registered against Namomal by the Daharki police on February 19 for allegedly breaking into the shop of a neighbor, Anwar Malik. If this had been a routine theft case, it is unclear why the army monitoring team was involved; moreover, the timing suggests that the theft charge may have been a pretext. Namomal had earlier been active in attempting to secure the release of another Hindu citizen, Yudhishtir Lal, who had been arrested in Daharki by army intelligence agents on January 25, 2000, a local resident said. Lal was kept in the A Section of Sukkur police station for twenty days until February 17, and Namomal was arrested the same day that Lal was released.67 Namomal was handed over to the police by the army on February 21, and was finally released on bail on March 14 after twenty-six days in custody.

42 Initial Report 302/99, Police Station, Ghalib Market, Lahore, November 25, 1999, signed by Jaan Muhammad, SHO/SI, before DSP Legal at Police Station on November 26, 1999.

43 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rana Sanaullah Khan, Faisalabad, March 5, 2000. See also Ayaz Amir, "Military justice: the good and not so good," Dawn, December 24, 1999. The arrest was recorded as having occurred on December 2, 1999, in the Gulberg area of Lahore.

44 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rana Sanaullah Khan, Faisalabad, March 5, 2000.

45 Ibid.

46 Medical officer's report, examination of Rana Sanaullah Khan, Services Hospital, Lahore, December 15, 1999.

47 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rana Sanaullah Khan, Faisalabad, March 5, 2000.

48 "Kulsoom, PML leaders booked for provocative speeches," Dawn Wire Service, Issue 06/12, March 17, 2000.

49 Kawish (Hyderabad), March 15, 2000.

50 Section 188 of the penal code criminalizes disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant. It is punishable by imprisonment for one to six months, and a fine of Rs. 200 to Rs. 1000. Pakistan Penal Code. Sec. 188. The order in this case was issued under Sec. 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which authorizes magistrates to issue temporary orders to persons to desist from certain acts in urgent cases of public nuisance or apprehended danger. Criminal Procedure Code, Sec. 144.

51 "Mass arrest of Sharif supporters," BBC News Online, July 7, 2000; "Police detain up to 300 Sharif party members," Agence France-Presse, July 7, 2000; "Pakistani police arrest Sharif Supporters to Stop Protest," Associated Press, July 7, 2000.

52 "Sharif supporters detained," BBC News Online, July 9, 2000.

53 Ibid; "29 PML workers arrested," Dawn, July 8, 2000.

54 "Ejaz Shafi demands suo moto action," Dawn, August 1, 2000. See also, "Ejaz Shafi missing," Dawn, July 31, 2000.

55 "Police arrest dozens of PML activists," Agence France-Presse, August 11, 2000; "PML activists detained," Dawn, August 12, 2000.

56 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Azad Jamali, Hyderabad, March 9, 2000.

57 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Visit by the Special Rapporteur to Pakistan, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1997/7/Add.2, 15 October 1996 (Nigel Rodley, Special Rapporteur), para. 14.

58 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Azad Jamali, Hyderabad, March 9, 2000.

59 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Allah Bachayo Soomro, Akash Mallah's attorney, Hyderabad, February 29, 2000; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a family member of Akash Mallah, Hyderabad, March 8, 2000.

60 Kawish, February 14, 2000.

61 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with MQM and JSQM members between February 29 and March 15, 2000; "Muttahida, JSQM leaders baton-charged; 34 arrested," Dawn, February 20, 2000.

62 Kawish, February 20, 2000.

63 "JSQM, Muttahida leaders arrested," News International, February 20, 2000; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nasreen Jalil, Karachi, March 15, 2000. According to Jalil, a total of about forty-five JSQM and MQM members were arrested on February 19 in Karachi.

64 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nasreen Jalil, Karachi, March 15, 2000.

65 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mansoor Marri, April 28, 2000.

66 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an eyewitness to the incident whose identity has been withheld for personal safety, Daharki, March 27, 2000.

67 Ibid.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page