Rights groups have condemned the alleged torture of two journalists by the police in Pakistan’s southwestern State of Balochistan. Saeed Ali Achakzai and Abdul Mateen Achakzai went missing on the night of June 20, but were later found in police detention in the Chaman region, around 130 km from Balochistan’s capital city, Quetta. The police accused them of cross-border smuggling and detained them for three days, during which they were allegedly brutally tortured.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement called it completely unacceptable for representatives of the security forces to commit acts of torture against journalists reporting from the region. As per the group, journalists based in Balochistan frequently face state-sponsored violence for exposing the issues of corruption and trafficking near the Pak-Afghan border.
Saeed Ali is associated with Samaa News TV while Abdul Mateen reports for Khyber News TV. The two journalists alleged police torture during detention while showing their wounds at Quetta’s Press Club.
One of the journalists, Abdul Mateen, was quoted by a local news website as saying, “We were blindfolded and taken to a place where we were handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Force which took us to the notorious Machh prison and tortured us there to the point that you can see signs of the torture on our backs.”
On June 24, journalists in the press gallery of the Balochistan provincial assembly staged a walkout during the post-budget session, demanding the State government headed by Mir Jam Kamal Khan conduct a judicial inquiry into the case.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has also taken cognizance of the alleged police action. PFUJ president Shahzada Zulifqar demanded that an independent commission be formed to probe the incident and prevent such violations in the future.
In relation to another case of police torture, protests were held outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly on June 25 to seek justice for Rafiullah alias Amir, who was allegedly beaten and paraded naked in police custody. Amir, who hails from Peshawar, was targeted after he criticized the State government on social media. The incident has prompted the suspension of four police officers accused of torture.
Pakistan stands at 145 rank among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.
As per the National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 20 cases of custodial torture were reported last year. However, “Most often a number of such cases still go unreported,” RSF noted.