Pak Armed Forces threaten journalists covering Zarina Marri case

January 31, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The Public Relations Department of the Armed Forces threatens the journalists covering the case of Zarina Marri

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), a public relations department of the armed forces of Pakistan denied the allegations that Ms. Zarina Marri (23) was in a military torture cell and used as a sex slave to induce arrested nationalist activists to sign state concocted confessions. Please see the statement issued by AHRC about:

The ISPR has also asked from the newspapers and other media, who have given coverage about the missing Zarina, to produce the first information report (FIR) about her arrest. In the effort to effectively deny the torture and forcing female prisoners to become sex slaves in army torture cells the officials of the ISPR have threatened newspapers and the electronic media with dire consequences if they continue to report on the issue of Zarina Marri.

The director of ISPR, who holds the rank of Major General, has personally contacted different news papers who had written editorials demanding probe into the allegations that the army is running torture cells and hold female prisoners. He threatened the newspapers that their official advertisements and its payments will be stopped if they continue with their ‘malicious campaign’ against the army. Some television channels came out about the threats but the federal minister for information then denied that director of the ISPR has made any such threats. He told the newspapers not to involve the Pakistan army in such campaign.

It is regretted that, instead of probing the case the army officials have started threatening the editors and column writers to stop reporting on the issue of army torture cells and their inhuman treatment with the women. The government of Mr. Asif Zardari, the President of Pakistan, should start a probe through a judicial commission on the allegations that the army is using torture cells and has been doing so since the Musharaf era. Since so many persons have testified before the courts and media there should be no difficulty for the government to bring the perpetrators who misused their power in the name of national security and war on terror, before the law.

It is the responsibility of the civilian government to come out with the statements on the allegations of military torture cells and not the duty of the army generals which shows that army is still more powerful in state affairs then the elected government. The AHRC urges that officials of the ISPR be instructed to stop threatening the journalists. Furthermore they must issue statements in the presence of ministry of information and government on the allegations of using women as sex slaves in the military custody.

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