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Rights Watchdog Decries Widespread Torture In Pakistan

Amnesty International has criticized Pakistan for failing to curb widespread torture as the country deals with complex insurgencies and extensive political violence.

The rights watchdog said that enforced disappearances by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the southwestern province of Balochistan, grave rights abuses in the country’s northwestern tribal belt and harassment of media remain major concerns.

"In all of these contexts, torture has come up because it is so rife and endemic. We have documented a range of cases that say torture is very widely practiced across the country," Olof Blomqvist, an Amnesty International spokesman told Radio Free Afghanistan. "Torture is not just [practiced] by the military. It is also [being done] by other state security forces like the police or the intelligence services."

Amnesty International has launched the global "Stop Torture" campaign to combat torture and other ill-treatment on May 13. It accused Pakistan for failing in fulfilling its commitment to the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Amnesty International has documented grave human rights abuses by security forces in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas where security forces have been fighting Islamist rebels since 2003.

The watchdog says that reports of torture are widespread in government detention centers in the region. "We are talking about thousands of men and boys who have been arrested often on incredibly flimsy suspicions of having links to groups like Taliban or Al-Qaeda," Blomqvist said.

The organization has pointed out enforced disappearances as another major problem in the country. "[Sometimes the victims] turn up and report having been tortured for weeks and months," he said. "At other times people simply find dead bodies dumped in the streets that bear significant marks of torture."

Such cases are reportedly common in the southwestern province of Balochistan where thousands of soldiers, civilians and insurgents have died in a decade-old Baluch separatist rebellion that Islamabad has tried to suppress with brute force.

Pakistan has yet to respond to Amnesty International's criticism.