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IV. Human Rights Violations20

Torture, beatings, kidnappings, and arbitrary arrests of tenant farmers and their families became increasingly commonplace between May 11, 2003 and June 12, 2003, when the Rangers mounted its second siege on parts of Okara district.  While the abuses are ongoing, most of the violations identified in this report are from the period of the siege.

Human Rights Watch has focused on this period because it represents the apex of confrontation to date between farmers and Pakistani security forces.  It is also far enough in the past that if the Pakistani authorities––military or civilian––intended to discipline or prosecute soldiers or police responsible for serious human rights violations, such actions would have already begun.  It should be emphasized that though the number of violations may have decreased since this period, similar violations continue with impunity to the present. 


Pakistani law-enforcement agencies have a well-documented record of ignoring the requirements of due process.  Extra-judicial killings by the Pakistani police, known in local parlance as “encounter killings,” are commonplace.  According to figures released by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 195 Pakistanis were killed in such “encounters” in 2003.21  Such killings are almost never investigated or prosecuted, reflecting the culture of impunity that the police, paramilitary, and military forces in Pakistan continue to enjoy. 

The four extra-judicial killings documented below took place between January 2002 and May 2003 and took place as part of attempts to coerce the farmers into compliance.  Serving officers of the Pakistan Army perpetrated one, and retired officers employed by the army the second.  Soldiers of the Pakistan Rangers are responsible for the final two killings in this section.  While Human Rights Watch is aware of several other suspect deaths in the affected areas during this period, we selected these four cases because the eyewitnesses we talked to clearly identified the perpetrators. 

Bashir Ahmed

On January 7, 2002, Colonel Mohammad Ali, the commanding officer at Renala Estate Military Farm, personally led a contingent of some thirty to forty armed men on a mission to confiscate land cultivated by the elderly farmer Mohammad Ali Kumboh, resident of Village 21/1-RB.  According to witnesses, fewer than ten of the armed men were serving army soldiers and the rest were private thugs.  Two farm employees told Human Rights Watch that it was common knowledge that Colonel Mohammad Ali personally ordered the confiscation “at any cost” as he viewed the Kumboh land as a test case that would set the right precedent in the village:  Kumboh had refused to sign the new contract.

Initially, Kumboh’s family alone—Kumboh, his brother Aslam, Aslam’s wife Aziza Begum, and their twenty-one-year-old son Ejaz—offered resistance. Kumboh, Aslam, and Ejaz were beaten, overpowered, and tied up by Colonel Ali and his contingent. Colonel Ali and his armed group then apparently set the family dairy and the grain depot on fire.  At this point, Aslam’s three teenage daughters, Zahida, Shahida, and Nazia, emerged from the house armed with sticks and tried to free their family.  The women were severely beaten by Colonel Ali’s men, who also began firing in the air.

It was the fires, the gunshots, and the screams of the women that finally attracted the attention of the rest of the village. Nadeem Ashraf described the scene to Human Rights Watch:

We heard firing and went to see.  Bashir, who lived in the neighboring village also came with us.  The women from the village came armed with sticks as did the men.  We went and untied Ejaz.  In the rush, I heard Colonel Ali shout the order to start firing.  Instead of firing in the air, the army officers then started firing at us.  Ejaz, Bashir Sidiq, and Hameed sustained bullet wounds.  The colonel’s men then retreated while firing in the air.22

Bashir Ahmed died on January 9, 2002, two days after the attack.  He was twenty-one years old.

Mohammad Tufail Cheema

On May 20, 2002, the administration of the Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Probanabad, in Okara district attempted to forcibly collect the wheat harvest from Village Dalmain Gunj.  The AWT had posted between twenty-five and thirty AWT employees armed with rifles to take up positions in the maize fields adjoining the field where the wheat harvesting was taking place.  The armed AWT officials in the maize field comprised retired army officers employed by AWT, including Colonel (retired) Iqbal and Colonel (retired) Nawaz.  AWT officials had asked the police to raid the wheat harvest in order to confiscate it.  When the villagers resisted the seizure of their crops, the soldiers opened fire on them.  One villager told Human Rights Watch:

As the police raided, we ran for cover fearing arrest. We could only run towards the maize field.  The AWT officials started firing as we ran towards them.23 

Mohammad Tufail Cheema, a forty-year-old father of three, was killed.

At least ten farmers were injured. Mohammad Ali Maachi had to have his leg amputated and is now disabled. 

Salman Masih

On August 24, 2002, as farmers gathered for a protest meeting at Village 4/4-L near Okara Military Farms, the Rangers and police surrounded the meeting.  Khushi Dola recounted what happened: 

They began to harass us and jeer at us.  On seeing the Rangers and police, protestors gathered even quicker.  Their plan was to arrest as many as possible.  As the people gathered, the Rangers started firing. Salman Masih was killed on the spot by a Rangers weapon in front of scores of people.24

In addition to the death of the twenty-one-year-old Salman Masih, five others were seriously injured, two of whom are now permanently disabled.  Bashir, a farmer in his thirties, is now disabled with a shattered hip.  Another farmer, Saleem, had his foot amputated.

Although eyewitnesses unambiguously identified Rangers as the perpetrators, the police subsequently charged Abdul Jabbar (brother of Abdul Sattar, secretary-general of the AMP), Mohammed Akram (his uncle), and Mohammed Sajjad, a fourteen-year-old-cousin, with Salman Masih’s murder.  The cases of the three are discussed in more detail in the section entitled “Arbitrary Arrest and Detention” below.

The arrest of the trio on the night of May 3, 2003, sparked a new wave of protests that culminated in the Okara siege and another killing by the Rangers.

Mohammad Amir

On May 5, 2003, between ten and twenty thousand protestors gathered on both sides of the main Grand Trunk Road highway connecting the district to the rest of the country.  The gathering had been organized to protest the arrest of Abdul Jabbar (brother of Abdul Sattar, secretary-general of the AMP), Mohammed Akram (his uncle), and Mohammed Sajjad, a fourteen-year-old-cousin, who had been charged with Salman Masih’s murder.  Female police officers were also called in to deal with the women protesters. The protest lasted for twenty-four hours.  

On May 6, around noon, the Rangers baton-charged the tenants and dispersed the protestors.25  Scores were injured, many of them women.  As on many other occasions, the Rangers were supported by the Punjab police.  By the morning of May 11, tension between the Rangers and the farmers had risen sharply.  On that day, the Rangers “captured” cattle being grazed by a tenant farmer.  Angry villagers attempted to free the cattle.  The Rangers responded by opening fire, killing an elderly tenant farmer, Mohammed Amir.26

Abdul Sattar, a resident of 4/4-L, told Human Rights Watch:

Razzak, of Village 4/4-L, had gone to graze his cattle when he was intercepted by some Rangers officials.  They told him they were confiscating his animals. Razzak quickly returned to the village and informed others.  Some farmers went to save the animals but were shot at by the Rangers.  Two teenagers, Latif and Nadeem, sustained bullet wounds.27

On hearing gunshots, more farmers gathered to protest.  The Rangers, assembled at their picket near the Bolan Dairy, started firing. Mohammad Amir, age sixty-five, was hit by a bullet while standing outside his home.28 He died instantly.

Sattar explained:

There was no doubt that Mohammad Amir’s was a targeted killing.  It was a wide-angle shot.  He was unarmed and clearly in the line of vision of the Rangers officers.  It was a deliberate cold-blooded killing, designed to frighten us farmers.  


Torture is routinely used in Pakistan by civilian law enforcement agencies, military personnel, and intelligence agencies.29  While acts of torture by the police force are generally aimed at producing a confession during the course of a criminal investigation, torture by military agencies primarily serves the purpose of “punishing” the “culprit.”

Torture by the military usually takes place after the victim has been abducted.  The purpose is to frighten the victim into changing his political stance or loyalties or at the very least to stop him from being critical of the military authorities.  The victim is often let go on the understanding that if he fails to comply with the military’s wishes, further abduction and mistreatment will follow.  In this manner, the victim’s movements can be restricted and he can be kept in a state of fear for an extended period of time. 

In the cases from Okara and neighboring districts described in this report, most acts of torture were perpetrated by personnel of the Pakistan Rangers.  However, there is evidence that Punjab Police also participated in torture when called upon to assist the operations of the Rangers against the farmers.  The aim of the torture in the vast majority of cases was to force the tenant farmers or their relatives to sign the new contracts and pay their cash dues according to the terms of these contracts.  However, there are several cases where the purpose of the torture appears to have been little other than the ritual humiliation of the tenant farmers in order to emphasize their powerlessness in the face of the military. 

The following cases are examples of the kind of behavior engaged in by the Rangers and police.  This is not a comprehensive list of torture cases.

Muhmmad Iqbal

The Pakistan Rangers unlawfully detained Muhammad Iqbal on February 10, 2003, because of his unwillingness to make contract payments.  A milkman by trade, Iqbal told Human Rights Watch he had been on his way to Okara city for his morning delivery round when he was detained along with five other farmers.  The group was held for a week and tortured repeatedly while in detention. According to Iqbal:

We were produced before Major Tahir Malik.  He asked why we had not made the contract payments.  We answered that we had no money.  They took us to the torture cell and Jallad [“tormentor”] Munir started thrashing us with a leather whip.  He made us all strip naked and whipped us till we bled.  Major Tahir Malik would personally supervise the whippings, abuse us, laugh at us, and punch us….  We were given a slice of bread and daal [lentils] at 10 pm, which was not enough for us.  We were produced before officers again in the morning.  They would insist that we pay the contract money.  Upon our refusal, it would begin again.  Major Tahir used to supervise the torturing process himself.  Inspector Aashiq used to be present there, too.  This cycle of torture and producing us before officers continued for seven days.30

Muhammad Akram

Muhammad Akram, a resident of Village 4/4-L in Okara, was arrestedon March 10, 2003 as he was passing over the Canal Bridge of Village 9-4/L  at Okara Military Farms.

We were arrested at six in the morning.  We were blindfolded and kept in a vehicle for about forty-five minutes while twenty-five others were arrested.  We were brought to Rangers Headquarters.  We were made to sit at a cold and dusty place in freezing temperature.  Major Tahir Malik ordered us to start doing push-ups.  We carried on like that for one hour. Major Tahir then made us stand with our arms raised for hours.  If anyone’s arms fell, they were beaten.  He asked us to sign up and pay the contract money to secure our release.  We were also forced to pressure our families to pay contract money.  We were kept at Rangers’ Headquarters for seven days.  During this time, we were whipped and beaten with sticks as well.31

Bashir Ahmad

A resident of Village 4/4-L, Bashir Ahmad was detained in order to coerce his father-in-law Mohammad Yaqub into signing a contract and depositing contract money.  Bashir described the events that followed his detention:

We were made to lie on our stomach and they started whipping us.  We were separated from each other one by one after the whipping.  I was taken outdoors and made to stand with my hands raised for an hour.  Then I was brought to the veranda outside the room.  A stick was fixed through my legs and I was ordered to sit down.  I was kept in that position for twenty minutes.  Then they tried to push the stick up my anus but stopped.  Then they started interrogating us again.  We were placed together again at midnight.  We were kept hungry and awake the whole night.  We were brought outside the room at 8 in the morning.  They kept us sitting till 6:00 p.m. with the Rangers guarding us.  We were given a cup of tea but not given any food throughout the day.  A resident of our village, Rasheed Ahmad Naseem, was also captured with us.  He was whipped in front of our eyes.  He was so badly tortured that he has permanent scars on his back.  We were produced before Major Tahir Malik at seven that evening.  He threatened us if we told the villagers of the torture then we would be arrested again.  I was also threatened with re-arrest if I did not ask my father-in-law to deposit the contract money.  Since that day, I have been going to the city for work incognito.32


Pervaiz, a  laborer, was picked up on February 4, 2002.  He and others detained with him were stripped naked and made to stand for an hour in temperatures just slightly above freezing.  Pervaiz told Human Rights Watch that Major Tahir Malik and Inspector Ashiq Ali whipped them every half hour.

We were lashed five times after every half an hour from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.  We were whipped till we bled profusely.  We will carry the physical scars forever.  We were not just tortured, we were deprived of sleep and starved as well.  We were made to sit with a wooden stake between our legs for two hours.  That punishment ended at 5 a.m.  We were then taken to a field and made to do push-ups for two hours. –Then they tied our arms to our backs, blindfolded us, and dragged us naked to the torture cell.

Pervaiz was told categorically by Major Tahir Malik and Inspector Ashiq Ali that he was being held hostage and tortured because his family had not deposited the cash payment required under the new tenancy contract: 

We were kept in a torture cell for five days.  We were taken out only to relieve ourselves.  We were punished at intervals every day.  We were made to stand with our hands raised for hours daily.  We were often whipped or thrashed with a wooden stick.  We used to cry and asked them what crime they were punishing us for. Major Tahir Malik and Inspector Aashiq Ali told us while abusing us verbally that we were being punished because our family members had not deposited lease money.  They told me that I would be punished until my father, Tufail, deposited the required amount.  We were in bad shape when we were released after five days.  We were released after some negotiations between village elders and officials.

Though we were in such poor shape, the villagers who had been protesting our detention accorded us a warm welcome and garlanded us.  We were produced next day in court to obtain orders for medical examinations.  The inhuman treatment meted out to us at the hands of Major Tahir Malik and Inspector Aashiq Ali will never be forgotten.  It was as if we were under the detention of officers of some enemy army.  We never thought that one day we would have to face atrocities at the hands of officers of our own army.33

Torture and Beatings of Children

Between May and August 2003 dozens of children were detained in “torture cells,” beaten and whipped, in order to coerce their parents and relatives into accepting the new tenancy agreements.34  Many children also witnessed adults stripped naked, beaten, and tortured.  Human Rights Watch interviewed thirty children, among many others, who reported being beaten and tortured.  However, many others who alleged torture were not interviewed.

For example, Adil, a thirteen-year-old schoolboy from Village 4/4-L, told Human Rights Watch how he was kidnapped by Rangers personnel on his way to school on the morning of May 9, 2003:

I was captured at 8.00 a.m. at the Rangers check post on G.T. Road.  They also arrested my cousin, Raheel. We were on our way to school together.  They covered our eyes with a piece of cloth.  We were brought to the Rangers Headquarters in a military vehicle where they removed the blindfold.  They kept us waiting in a room till 5 p.m.  We were both handcuffed and then locked up at night in the Operation Center at the Rangers Headquarters.  During the night, we would be slapped on the face periodically in order to keep us awake.  In the morning we were brought out blindfolded again.  We were forced to bend down in the “rooster position”35 in scorching heat till 12 noon.  A Rangers official was supervising us.  Whenever we tried to relax a little he punched us and kicked us.  We were not provided any food for twenty-eight hours.  Then we both were given one piece of bread.

Adil also provided an eyewitness account of farmers being tortured, coerced, and beaten:

We could also see another twenty to twenty-five tenants who had been picked up earlier and had been made to lie on their stomach.  They were beaten severely with a leather whip in front of us.  The bearded constable, Muneer, known as “Jallad” was in charge of this session.  He is notorious for torturing tenants and every detained tenant was frightened of him.  Each tenant was whipped seventy seven times on his back in front of me.  The tenants were then locked in a room with their eyes covered and hands raised.  I saw with my eyes the nephew of a tenant being badly tortured.  The Rangers had stripped him naked and were whipping him, kicking him, and hitting him repeatedly, asking him why his uncle [the tenant farmer] had run away to Lahore.  His relatives managed to have him released on the seventh day.  But he was whipped and beaten badly everyday till he was released.  All of us, adults and younger kids, were given a piece of bread each with daal at night.  The detained tenants were whipped once again at midnight.  This happened every day and night.  I and my cousin were detained for twelve days.

During this time, Adil and his cousin were pressured to send messages to their families asking them to sign the new contract and to deposit the contract money in order to secure their release.  The Rangers officers also had the messages conveyed to the families of the detained children through others, including agents and touts working on behalf of the Rangers.  However Adil added, with a touch of pride:

Our family did not bow to this pressure and refused to deposit the contract money.36

Adil’s cousin Raheel said:

We were, at last, produced before local commander of the Rangers, Major Malik Tahir.  He ordered our release, saying that we had been consuming their food and this was a burden on the state treasury.  He also expressed disgust at the fact that our parents were not interested in our release.  We used to go to school on bicycles, which were not returned by the Rangers upon our release.  However, our school bags were returned.  Not only we, but many tenants, were deprived of  belongings, particularly bicycles, which were snatched by the Rangers and handed over to Rangers touts.37

In another incident, five boys ranging in age from nine to fourteen years were apprehended by Rangers at 6:00 a.m. on May 11, 2003.  The boys had been making their regular morning delivery of milk to Okara city prior to going to school.  According to ten-year-old Abid Ali, the five were all from families that were unwilling to sign the new contracts and were detained on the basis of “information supplied by an informer.”  Abid Ali explained what happened:

They snatched our milk and our bicycles. Gomi, the informer, took away the milk and bicycles.  They blindfolded us and took us to Rangers Headquarters.  As soon as we got there, they started beating us with sticks. After a while we even stopped crying or screaming.  Then they asked if we wanted food.  We refused the food saying we were not hungry and wanted to go home.  We were again beaten on our refusal.  And this time we were whipped as well.

Abid Ali also said that he witnessed the torture of tenant farmers who were already present at Rangers Headquarters when the boys arrived:

There were sixteen farmers [already present when] we arrived there.  [We saw them being] beaten badly with a flat leather whip by Munir “Jallad” and Inspector Aashiq Ali in the presence of Major Tahir Malik. The farmers were bleeding and crying in pain.  Some were weeping out of fear and sitting with their heads bowed.38

According to Abid Ali, he and the other boys were asked by Major Tahir to force their parents to deposit contract money “otherwise, we would all be killed.”  This group of boys was released after eight days of beatings and torture because “a media team came there and after listening to us they asked Rangers official to release us.”  Human Rights Watch interviewed the local media team, who corroborated Abid Ali’s testimony, but who were not willing to be quoted on record for fear of retribution.

Another fourteen year old, Aqeel, was arrested on May 23, 2003.  He told Human Rights Watch:

Once my blindfold came off, I saw I was in the Rangers Headquarters with about 100 other detainees, including tenants, their relatives, employees of official dairies, farm employees, ordinary laborers, and school children.  Fearing reaction from the people against arrests on such a large scale, some Rangers officials recommended that detainees should be released.  As a result, all the detainees, except tenants, their children, and relatives, were released at that time.  Seven of us were kept detained. I, along with six others, was kept at Rangers Headquarters for five days.

On the day when I was captured, the Rangers informers, Gomi and Jella Taily, came there and asked my name and address.  They told the Rangers not to let me go free as the AMP flag flew on the roof of my house.  Captain Aftab came in the room and asked if my father had land. Yes, I answered.  They tied us and started beating us with a leather whip. Captain Aftab then went off duty and another official covered our eyes and took us to an office.  The officer asked if we had paid the amount for the tenancy lease.  “No,” we answered.  We were then locked in a dark room with no windows, which Major Tahir Malik and the others called the “torture cell.”  Major Tahir Malik visited our village with informers and we were released along with other people after six days’ detention.  During this time, we were beaten and whipped every day and told to get our families to sign the contract.39

Similarly, Ashraf, an eleven-year-old boy, and his two cousins were arrested while delivering milk on May 25, 2003.  Like the others, his milk and bicycle were stolen and he was then transported to the Rangers Headquarters:

Soon after our arrival the Rangers started beating us with sticks.  Then they offered food to us and beat us again when we refused to take it.  In front of me, sixteen farmers were asked to take all their clothes off and be naked and once they were naked they were whipped all over including on the genitals.  We were detained for five days.  We heard the cries of farmers when they were being tortured.  We also witnessed episodes of torture in those five days.  The Rangers sent messages to our parents to deposit money.40

Mohammad Saleem, age twelve, recounted how he and a mentally disabled boy from his village were kidnapped and treated:

I was going towards our land on our donkey cart.  I was picked up by two masked Rangers officials at Nine-Wala Bridge.  They covered my eyes and made me sit at the bridge.  There was also a mentally retarded boy, Mohammad Ashraf, with me.  Ashraf went wild when they covered his eyes and [he] bit the officers really hard.  They beat him almost unconscious and left him moaning on the bridge.  He told the villagers about my arrest.  The Rangers took me to Rangers Headquarters, covered my eyes and locked me in a windowless room.  They kept on threatening me that I would be killed.  They continued with verbal abuse as well.  They forced me to send a message to my parents asking them to deposit lease money.  They tortured me for two days through beatings and standing for hours in the scorching heat.  They detained me for twenty-two days.  I saw with my eyes that the tenants and their relatives who were brought there were made to take their clothes off and subjected to whippings.  Inspector Aashiq and Inspector Munir “Jallad” used to perform this duty.  The detainees were also made to adopt the Rooster position for hours in the scorching heat.  They were given hot water for drinking.41

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

Since the confrontation with farmers began in early 2002, the Pakistan Rangers and police have arrested hundreds of AMP activists, other tenant farmers, and members of their families without charge or, more often, on what appear to be trumped-up charges.  Some of those detained have been beaten and then set free.  Hundreds of others face criminal charges.  They have been charged with crimes ranging from violations of Pakistan’s Maintenance of Public Order Act (MPO) to murder.

The police have filed charges under Pakistan’s draconian anti-terrorism laws against the leadership of the AMP.42  Some leaders have also been charged under laws relating to “anti-state activity” and sedition.43

Human Rights Watch has been provided a list by the AMP of more than 100 individual farmers charged under various laws.  Human Rights Watch has seen further corroborating documentary evidence ranging from case files to copies of the First Information Report (FIR) of many of these cases.44  However, as most police “first information reports” (FIRs) which form the basis of the arrests follow a simple formula—naming a handful of principal “culprits” and “unknown others”—it is often impossible to deduce the factual basis for the arrests.  The category “unknown others” makes it possible for police to arrest almost anyone.  The military and civil administration use the threat of possible re-arrest and engagement with the long, arduous, and expensive legal process as a means of harassing the farmers and coercing them into submission. 

Haji Abdul Rasheed, a resident of Village 4/4-L in Okara district,was detained at Canal Bridge by a Pakistan Rangers officer on November 6, 2002.  His motorcycle was also confiscated. The officer subsequently handed Rasheed over to the police.  He told Human Rights Watch:

A sub-inspector of Saddar police station, Rana Liaqat, was called who handcuffed and took me to the police station.  The Station House Officer asked how many cases were registered against me.  I answered, I did not know.  The Station House Officer found my name nowhere in any FIR [First Information Report].  He declared me innocent but ordered a constable to detain me in the lock-up room because the Rangers might ask for me.  I asked him why I was handcuffed and said that if I was innocent, then he should remove my fetters.  I was kept at Rangers Headquarters for three hours and then at Saddar police station for two hours.  I was then produced before Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP), Khalid Mehmood.  He asked me if I knew the reason for my being brought before him.  He asked me to sit down and said that as I was caught by the Rangers, only they could set me free.  I requested him to release me as I had not committed any crime.

Two hours later, Major Junaid, Major Khattak, and Inspector Ashiq arrived from Rangers Headquarters.  The DSP told them that I was a dangerous criminal who had reinforced the tenants’ movement, which had been suppressed by him.  He added that I arranged a meeting at Village 8/4-L.  I told them I went there only to drop my friend who had no transport, and had not attended the meeting.  On my return, I only irrigated my crops.  Was that my crime?  They threatened to kill me if I ever dared support the tenants movement again, slapped me, and let me go.45

On the night of May 3, 2003, as noted above, AMP leader Abdul Jabbar (brother of Abdul Sattar, secretary-general of the AMP), Mohammed Akram (his uncle), and Mohammed Sajjad (Jabbar’s cousin) were arrested by the Rangers at the Okara Vegetable Market, ostensibly in connection with the murder of Salman Masih whose case is recounted in the “Killings” section above.  Masih had been shot dead on August 24, 2002, when Rangers opened fire on a gathering of tenant farmers in Okara.46  At the time of their arrest, the three had been driving a tractor trolley filled with 155 sacks of potatoes worth 50,000 rupees47; the trolley and produce were seized by the Rangers.  The trio were subsequently charged in the Lahore Anti-Terrorist Court.

Other baseless charges under anti-terrorism laws have been filed against many of the tenant farmers.  Muhammad Rasheed, a baker by profession and resident of Okara, currently living in Village 38/2RA, told Human Rights Watch:

On May 27, 2003, fifteen Rangers soldiers accompanied by Inspector Aashiq Ali raided my house at midnight. I, my wife, and our child were asleep at the time.  I woke up due to noise and as I jumped out of my bed the Rangers men pointed guns towards me.  They threatened to shoot if I tried to escape or resisted.  Then they blindfolded me. Inspector Aashiq Ali beat me with rifle butts.  They dragged me out of the house and made me sit in a vehicle.  Inspector Aashiq Ali pushed and hit my wife when she tried to rescue me.  My wife ran after the vehicle but to no avail.

At Rangers Headquarters, I was made to lie on my stomach and whipped fifteen times before being produced before Major Tahir Malik.  He asked me why my father-in-law [Maula Baksh] had not paid the contract money.  He told me to force him to pay or arrange the payment myself. I told them that I could barely feed my family and was not in a position to arrange the amount of contract money.  He asked the whereabouts of other relatives of my father-in-law.  I feigned ignorance and told them that his informer should know.  Major Tahir started threatening me and asked his men to inject me with rat poison if I did not start talking.  I was shifted to a torture cell from Major Tahir Malik’s office at 2:30 a.m.  I and my companions were not allowed to sleep the whole night.  I was taken again to Major Tahir’s office at eight in the morning.  He asked me to send my father-in-law a message for depositing contract money if I wanted to be released.  If [my father-in-law] did not comply, Major Tahir Malik said, he would order me to divorce my wife, daughter of Maula Baksh.  Upon my refusal, I was whipped five times and locked in the torture cell again.

I was detained there for ten days.  We were taken out every morning and evening and were whipped five times.  In charge of the torture cells, Inspector Muneer Ahmad and Inspector Aashiq used to pester us the whole night.  Then the torture stopped but I was kept locked in the room for ten consecutive days.  I, along with seventeen others, was shifted to Shahbhur police station when my in-laws filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court.  But then we were again transferred to Rangers Headquarters after two days.  We were kept there for a night and then shifted to Cantonment Police Station.  The police were forced to send me to Sahiwal Jail on judicial remand due to pressure by the Rangers who had my name included in a list of “unknown” people accused in a terrorism case.48  We were released on bail and have been forced to report to the anti-terrorism courts ever since.49

Similarly, Habib Ahmed, an electrician, was illegally detained on February 2, 2003 by Rangers personnel. He was initially taken to the Saddar Police Station in Okara where he remained in detention for forty-eight hours without food or water.  Subsequently, he was interrogated by Inspector Rana Liaqat Ali of the Punjab Police and Ashiq Ali of the Rangers.  He was then moved to a temporary police checkpoint where he was kept handcuffed for six days.  Eventually, a dacoity (highway robbery) case was registered against him and Mirajuddin, an elderly farmer from the same village.  The Lahore High Court granted bail to the two men and bail was posted by villagers. 

Arbitrary Dismissal, Mistreatment, and Torture of Military Farm Employees

The Okara Military Farms have traditionally employed substantial numbers of people from the local farming community to perform various functions at the military farms and dairies.  These employees are normally expected to enjoy all the protections due to state employees by law. 

Since the conflict began, however, military farm authorities have dismissed scores of relatives of farmers as a means of retaliating against the community.  More often, they have simply withheld salaries and not paid farm employees for months on end.

Officials have been quite brazen in threatening residents.  The text of an official letter from the Okara Military Farms store manager to employee Mohammad Hussain, dated August 20, 2002, is self explanatory.  The letter, in English in the original, is produced verbatim below:

20 August, 2002

To Mr. Mohammad Hussain

Military Farms Okara

Subject: Anti-State Activities

It has come to the notice that your parents/relatives are living in a village on military farms.  These are involved in anti-state activities.  You are directed to motivate your parent/relatives to desist from anti-state activities and to coop with Pakistan Army and Pakistan Rangers.  In case of failure to do so for the state, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against you.


Naseer Ahmed

Mohammad Hussain’s salary was subsequently withheld and he was fired.  Human Rights Watch has seen six similar letters threatening other Okara Military Farms employees in similar fashion.

Some employees of Okara Military Farms have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured in order to coerce their families into signing contracts and making cash payments.  At other times, the salaries of such employees have been docked and apparently pocketed by the Rangers officials themselves. 

Muhammad Ayub Anjum, a security guard at the Neelum farm of the Okara Military Farms complex and resident of village  4/4-L, was arrested on May 25, 2003, and detained for ten days.

I was arrested by the police on my way home from work and handed over to the Rangers Headquarters.  Colonel Saleem and Major Tahir Malik asked me if I had asked my father to deposit the contract money.  “I am an employee and have nothing to do with land and my father will not accept this option,” I told them.  They laughed and said that if that was the case then I could not go home but straight to the torture cell.  The next morning, six armed Rangers officers ordered me to identify tenant farmers from amongst the people passing by on the roads.  I refused to recognize any farmers.  I was taken back to the torture cell.  I was whipped and beaten every day.  I was told that unless my father deposited the sum and signed the contract I would never leave.

During my detention, the Rangers officials forced me to sign my salary slip and withdrew my salary.  Part of the salary was kept as partial payment of contract.  A friend of mine, Ijaz Mirza stood surety for me.  Eventually they said they would release me but I was threatened that if the balance payment was not made within three days, I would be sent to jail.

I have not been to work since that incident.  They [farm management] kept calling me to report to work but I have not reported for work because I fear arrest and torture.  I told my supervising officer that I could only come to work if he could ensure that I will not be arrested.  “It is a matter between you and the Rangers, deposit the required amount and continue your job,” I was told.50

Muhammad Hussain, an employee of the Military Farm Bolan and resident of village 4/4 L, was on his way home from work on August 27, 2003, when he was halted at the unofficial Rangers checkpoint for 4/4-L and asked if he owned any land.

I told them I would not have joined service if I owned any land.  They asked, then, if my father had any land?  “I am married and independent. I have nothing to do with my father’s land,” I explained.

Muhammad Hussain was promptly dispatched to the “torture cell.”  Subsequently, he was shifted to the Chuchak Police Station where he was beaten further.  After four days at the police station, he was returned to the Rangers headquarters and produced before Colonel Saleem.

Colonel Saleem said that nobody was superior to the army nor could anyone compete with the armed forces.  After a final beating, I was freed.  I spent twelve days in detention.51

Muhammad Azeem, a father of five and a milkman employed at the Okara Military Farms, worked for the farm for twenty-three years until June 2003.  His father, whom he had not lived with for over a decade, cultivates twelve acres of land as a tenant.  Azeem was illegally detained in June 2003.

I was picked up from Pajnad Dairies Farms during working hours.  I was kept blindfolded for four consecutive days.  I did not know where I was. I was given food once during the four days of detention.  When my eyes were uncovered, I found more people present, arrested by the Rangers.  They were tenants or their relatives.  There were other employees of dairy farms arrested by the Rangers present there as well.  I was tortured for twenty consecutive days by Rangers.  I was whipped and beaten by the Rangers official, Munir. I was released after twenty days when they were convinced that I would not cave in.  I was fired from my job, which was my only source of my income.  I was a poor man.52

The Pakistan Rangers sought to compel Muhammad Arshad, a resident of Village 4/4-L employed as a store porter at Punjand Military Farm, to make contract payments and tried to arrest him on May 28, 2003.  When that attempt failed, he, like many others in his position, was summoned to work by the military farm and issued a show cause notice that threatened him with immediate termination unless he reported to work.  Arshad returned to work on June 20 and was illegally detained by the Rangers the following day. He, too, was taken to Rangers Headquarters, imprisoned in the “torture cell” and whipped till he bled.  According to Arshad, he was starved for three days and locked in a dark, over-crowded, windowless room along with other military farm employees.

I was told that I would be released if lease money amounting to Rupees 52,000 would be deposited.  I refused to pay and told them that the land had been cultivated by my relatives and my father owned only four acres of land.  They told me that the full amount was to be recovered from me.  I was kept at Rangers Headquarters for four days and then was taken to police station Shah Bhaur.  I was kept there for two days and then brought back to Rangers headquarters.  I was tortured again at the headquarters.  Eventually, a friend paid a five thousand-rupee bribe to secure my release.  He also provided surety against the 52,000-rupee “debt.”  I am a poor man.  If I consume my salary in paying the balance amount owed by my relatives, how am I to eat?  I do not leave the house for fear of the Rangers.53

Mohammad Bashir, a watchman at Okara Military Farm, was detained on May 26, 2003, for eight days and tortured.  His relatives were told that he would not be released until they deposited the tenancy lease.  Bashir told Human Rights Watch:

They started torturing me when my relatives refused to pay.  I was deprived of sleep, starved and whipped.  There were seven more employees detained with me. Major Tahir Malik personally supervised the torture activities.  At times he tortured the detainees with his own hands.  Those employees were released whose relatives had deposited the amount.  My wife borrowed ten thousand rupees and deposited it with Major Tahir Malik for securing my release.  After receiving the amount I was released but I was asked to arrange the balance amount of twenty five thousand rupees.  Otherwise, I would be picked up again and be dismissed from service, too.  I requested my in-laws to deposit the balance but they refused.  I sold my buffalo and deposited rupees twenty-five thousand at the Rangers Headquarters.  Then I started going to work again.  At the end of month when I approached the cashier for my salary, he told me that our salaries have been stopped.  I contacted Major Tahir Malik and told him that my salary had been withheld despite the fact that I had made payments on behalf  of my relatives.  I requested him to arrange payment of my salary.  I was given one month salary on his directive and was issued a warning that I would be arrested again in case I failed to deposit the next installment.  Consequently, I dare not go to work and am now effectively jobless.54

“Forced Divorce”

Divorce, though sanctioned by Islam, remains taboo in much of Pakistan.  In an effort to coerce farmers into signing contract agreements, Rangers officials have not just physically abused them but also attempted to ensure that they lose face and standing in their local community.  Consequently, the paramilitary force has used the tactic of forcing the divorces of the daughters and sisters of “errant” farmers.

While there have been scores of attempts to effect divorces by the Rangers, several of which figure in other sections of this report, Human Rights Watch is aware of three cases where the paramilitary force actually succeeded in forcing divorces.  Given the sensitivity of the issue, only one of the parties was willing to speak to HRW on-the-record.55   

Basharat Mehmood had been married for less than four months when he was kidnapped and taken to the Rangers Headquarters in Okara district.  Once there, Basharat was beaten and whipped until he agreed to sign a document divorcing his wife.

My father-in-law has land for cultivation at Okara Military Farms.  The Rangers want my father-in-law to sign the new contract.  He has refused.  The Rangers kidnapped me and took me to their headquarters on June 18, 2003.  They beat me and whipped me till I agreed to sign a document divorcing my wife.  They told me that I was to force my father-in-law to sign the contract, otherwise, I would face dire consequences.  They said they would not only kill me but also my two brothers.  They also said that, as I had divorced my wife, I should tell my father–in-law that she was now a destroyed woman unless he signed the agreement.  I only signed the paper under duress.  My wife and I have no conflict at all.  I want to continue with my marriage and my wife also wants to live with me out of her own will.  The divorce paper is completely fabricated.  I had to go to the Union Council and swear on oath that I had not divorced my wife.  We also had to get a Fatwa56  from a local religious scholar that proves that my marriage is still valid in the eyes of Islam.  We have been humiliated and ashamed by this event.57

In another instance, Mohammad S. was kidnapped by Rangers when visiting his son’s father-in-law, Shakir Husain., in Okara district.58  Although Shakir Husain. was a tenant farmer, Mohammad S. had no connection with farming and was not even a resident of any of the affected districts.  Mohammad S. told Human Rights Watch what he experienced:

I was blindfolded and taken to the Rangers Headquarters.  Once there, my blindfold was removed.  A man (later I was told this was a Rangers major), ordered his two subordinates to strip me naked.  I asked them to allow an old man some dignity and respect.  So the major started whipping me.  He told me to ask Shakir Husain to sign the contract.  I was kept like this for three days.  I would be whipped every day at least two times.  On the third day, I sent Shakir Husain a message begging him to sign the contract. He refused.  The major then asked me to call my son and ask him to divorce Shakir Husain’s daughter.  I resisted but after another four days, I called my son.  He did as I said and mailed the Talaq-nama [divorce deed] to the address of his father-in-law and also sent his wife back.  Only then was I released.  We are very ashamed but we had no choice.  I was released after a total of twelve days.59

Restrictions on Freedom of Speech

The military farm authorities, the Rangers, and the Okara Police have blocked access to journalists to prevent information filtering out of Okara, especially during confrontations, disturbances, and during the siege.

On May 10, 2003 Sarwar Mujahid, one of the few independent journalists reporting from Okara, was arrested on charges of “inciting the public against Rangers” and “terrorism.”  He was produced before an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore and remanded to police custody for four days.  During this period, Okara police charged Mujahid in several other criminal cases, including a case in which he allegedly fired a 7mm rifle at Rangers personnel.  Mujahid denies ever seeing such a weapon, let alone firing it.  According to Mujahid, these charges are:

all lies and slander.  The Rangers hated my reports from Okara Military Farms.  They warned me several times.  Eventually, they had no other way of keeping me away from the action but to have me arrested.60

Subsequently, Mujahid, still under arrest, was shifted to Okara District Hospital due to health complications.  His family continued to receive threats from the Rangers for weeks after his arrest.  He was released on bail in August 2003, and still faces charges.

In addition to the specific abuses described above, the tactics of Rangers and police forces have in some cases effectively threatened tenant farmers with forced eviction.

[20] This section does not attempt to list all alleged violations, either during the siege period or in the wider confrontation.  It only includes cases that Human Rights Watch was able, in a relatively short investigation period, to establish as credible allegations of abuses.

[21] “State of Human Rights in 2003,” HRCP Annual Report, Lahore, 2004. 

[22] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with AMP President Nadeem Ashraf, Renala, March 19, 2004.

[23] Statement of Mohammad Ali Maachi to Peoples’ Rights Movement convenor Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Okara, December 22, 2002.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with Khushi Dola, Okara October 23, 2003.

[25] Pakistan is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  However, the fundamental rights enshrined in chapter 1 of the constitution of Pakistan include qualified rights of expression and assembly. Citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, "subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [or] commission of or incitement to an offence."  Citizens also have rights to "assemble peacefully and without arms," to form associations and unions, and to form or join a political party, "subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law...."  Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, part II, ch. I, secs. 16, 17. Restrictions may be imposed, with respect to assembly, "in the interest of public order"; with respect to association, "in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality"; and with respect to political parties, "in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan."  Even these limited rights, which fall short of internationally recognized standards, have been repeatedly violated by the Rangers and Punjab Police in Okara.

[26] The first information report (FIR) registered by the police implicated AMP leaders in the murder; numerous eyewitnesses however, maintained that a Rangers’ bullet had killed the victim.

[27] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Sattar, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[28]“Correspondent’s Report,” Dawn, May 12, 2003

[29] Human Rights Watch letter to General Pervez Musharraf, October 10, 2003.

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Iqbal, Okara, October 23, 2003.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Akram, Okara, October 23, 2003. Akram clarified that he had also been arrested earlier in 2002. “  That time, they kept me for ten days.  Each time, the Rangers stole my money and large quantities of milk.”

[32] Human Rights watch interview with Bashir Ahmed, Okara, October 23, 2003.

[33] Human Rights watch interview with Pervaiz, Okara, October 23, 2003.

[34] In this report, the word “child” refers to anyone under the age of eighteen.  The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states: “For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being
below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1, adopted November 20, 1989 (entered into force
September 2, 1990).  Names of children have been changed for purposes of anonymity and security.

[35] A common form of corporeal punishment and torture used in South Asia.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with Adil, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with Raheel, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with Abid Ali, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with Aqeel, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[40] Human Rights Watch interview with Ashraf, Okara, October 25, 2003.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Saleem, Okara, October 24, 2003.

[42] Enacted under the Sharif administration, the Anti-Terrorism Act violates international standards of due process as well as the right to free expression.  Although trials have rarely been conducted within the prescribed period, courts established under the act are supposed to conduct trials within seven days.  Convicted persons have only seven days in which to file appeals, and these too must be heard and decided within a seven-day period.  The act criminalizes, among other activities, "distributing, publishing or pasting of a handbill or making graffiti or wall-chalking intended to create unrest or fear"—an ill-defined provision that could be applied against political speech.  Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, as amended by Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance, 1999, secs. 7A, 19, 25.

[43] The rights to free expression, assembly, and association have regularly been limited by the application of broadly worded laws governing sedition and the maintenance of public order.  The sedition law, section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, criminalizes speech that "brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Central or Provincial Government established by law." Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance prohibits speech that "causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public" or any section thereof, or which "furthers or is likely to further any activity prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order."

[44] First Information Report or FIR is the basic charge sheet lodged with or by the police on the basis of which the police conduct investigations and make arrests.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Haji Abdul Rasheed, Okara, October 27 2003.

[46] “Correspondent’s Report,” Dawn, May 8, 2003.

[47] Approximately U.S. $875.

[48] The case filed against Mohammad Rasheed requires him to attend court proceedings on an ongoing basis at the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC).  The ATC, set up under the 1999 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), tries cases registered under the Act.   

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Rasheed, October 26, 2003.

[50]Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Ayub Anjum, Okara October 27, 2003.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Hussain, Okara October 26, 2003.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Azeem, Okara October 27, 2003.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Arshad , Okara October 27, 2003.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Bashir, Okara, October 27, 2003.

[55] See appendices 2 – 6.

[56] An Islamic religious edict.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with Basharat Mehmood, Okara October 26, 2003.

[58] All names used in this case have been changed and details such as addresses have been withheld upon request.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview, date and place of interview withheld to protect the identity of the interviewee.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Sarwar Mujahid, Lahore, April 15, 2004.

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