Tag Archives: Malik Tahir Iqbal

Karachi Youthful Offender Remand Home Visit

Today we have a visit to the remand home, where Legal Rights Forum wants to establish a Juvenile Rehabilitation (Career Training) Center.  In the cab we go, and we drive about 20 minutes outside of Karachi’s center to the home.

 remand-home.jpgRemand Home Entrance

When we get to the home, Safi – an LRF advocate – stops at the fruit cart outside and buys several bushels of bananas for the youthful accused living there.  Living in the home currently are 15 young boys.  The number fluctuates, depending on the pending cases.  Juveniles between the ages of 12 and 16 are referred to the home by judges.  Youth who cannot post bail or those who cannot meet surety fees and thus are not released are among the residents.  The head of the home is quite friendly and greets us with respect.  He is happy to accept the poster Tahir brings for display in the home – the poster states in simple terms the rights that juveniles have according to law along with contact information for LRF in case they feel they’ve been mistreated. 

The head of the remand home leads the way to visit the inside and talk to the kids.  As we walk toward where they are, several guards jump to our defense.  I’m not a gun expert, but at least two dudes cock what look like automatic rifles.  From that display, I’m expecting crazy-eyed wild children or something, but just as I looked ahead, there were a couple rows of young nervous-looking kids.  As soon as they saw us, they quickly stood, nodded their heads and said in unison, “Asalam-e-lekom” for a peaceful greeting.  I felt awkward that these kids were obligated to jump to attention like that just because of our presence.  We told them to please be comfortable and seated, which they cautiously did with a glance the head guy. 

“Would you like to speak with them?” Safi asked me.  I’m thinking: um, not really; I felt so strange about demanding anything from these kids.  I guess in a way I’m naïve to think they looked so innocent and nervous.  About half of them have these astonishingly bright blue-green eyes that make such a notable contrast with their somewhat dark skin tones and hair.  Safi picks one of the older-looking ones and asks him to come to the front and talk to us a bit.  Safi’s tone is serious and the kid is a bit shaky.  He loosened up a bit as Safi just asked some basic questions.  He’d been arrested with 3 sticks of opium.  Saima translated for me as Safi asked the kid whether he had been mistreated by the police.  He said no.  Another younger looking kid was sitting toward the front with a look of mischief.  He was 12.  I was curious to hear his charge.  When I heard, I was shocked: attempted murder?!  Turns out his case had been reported in newspapers: he found a 5 or 6-year old neighbor child had been strangled and went to tell the child’s parents.  The parents then accused him of the strangling.  This kid had been staying in the home for two months as he waited for court proceedings.  This is the only remand home in the country, and he has to travel hours to get to court.  LRF dreams more homes can be established throughout the country.  It’s on the list of goals. 

For now, LRF looks forward to developing its Juvenile Rehabilitation Program in the remand home: 3- or 6-month courses on electronics’ hardware training for the children.  The courses also have lectures on ethics and morality.  Tahir, of LRF, has spoken to some business centers around Karachi, 3 of which have agreed to provide work to skilled hands that emerge from the program.

 

Intern’s Introduction to Karachi City Court

Tahir, the Legal Rights Forum Chairman and 2008 JusticeMakers Fellow, and his roommate pick me up at 10:30am to head to Karachi City Court.   On the way, Tahir tells me of the people I will meet at the courthouse today and points out legal buildings and landmarks on the way.  We drive into parking for advocates (lawyers), say goodbye to Tahir’s roommate who is also a lawyer and wander through the court grounds.  The courthouse has five main buildings, one for each district: North, South, East, West and Central.  We head to the East district building to a meeting room.  On the way, I see a range of people: from prisoners in 6-person handchains, to parent-child sets, from poor beggars to rich officials, including of course lawyers, judges and police.  I can see hints of the hierarchy among the lawyers and other government officials, but I have yet to sort it out.

Malik Tahir Iqbal, IBJ’s 2008 JusticeMakers Fellow and Chairman of Legal Rights Forum.

During the five-minute walk to the meeting place, I was mentally drained as I accepted being a magnet for eyes.  From out of nowhere, a beautiful necklace of fresh flowers was draped over me.  I turned to be introduced to the modest confidence of Saima, an LRF advocate who I’d been in touch with over email.  Before I could finish that introduction, another flowery string came from the opposite direction.  In seconds, I’d been introduced to tens of people whose names I struggled to retain, and my hair smelled very fresh.  I followed introductions through a set of smiles and chatter into a room where tea and cookies were brought.  I was asked to give a small speech with introduction of myself.

Greeting Intern’s greeting in City Court

At the courthouse, after tea and introductions, I went on a tour of the East building, guided by Saima and Safi, two LRF members. Safi, an LRF advocate, walks me over to a set of chained accused to show me the handchains.  The chains grind around the wrists where they leave clear welts on the skin.  LRF would like to petition the legislature to make 6-person chains illegal, but there are more primary problems.  If the police are not following the laws, the petition to change the law seems secondary.  Tahir says the type of cuff used on the prisoners, a chain-link cuff, is already illegal but the police use them anyway.  Tahir said the police who retain the accused claimed they did not have the other type of handcuffs; advocates requested the legal cuffs from a government office which were apparently sent but are still not used.  Another man I’m brought to see suffered a beating on the day of his arrest.  He claims the police beat him, and the police say it was other people.  The police did not fill out the required medical form, so the truth is uncertain.  LRF is concerned for cases like this.  These accused citizens have the right to be treated properly as well as for legal representation.  

Illegal ChainsIllegal Chain Links Grouped AccusedPrisoners Chained in Groups

Legal Rights Forum hosts conference on juvenile delinquency, prominent Pakistani organizations attend

On the 29th March of this year, the Legal Rights Forum (LRF) hosted a conference on issues concerning juvenile delinquency. A number of important NGOs and civil society organizations attended, including the NGO Resource Centre, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Federal Ministry on Human Rights, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the Karachi Bar Association, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), and a number of government personnel.

The agenda covered an array of diverse yet pertinent topics. Prominent lawyers discussed the issue of establishing separate juvenile courts – as outlined in the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 – and the procedure that should be adopted in those courts. Dr. Khalid Iqbal spoke about juveniles who are suffering from infectious and/or contagious diseases and require prolonged medical treatment, in addition to juveniles who suffer from psychological problems. A discussion about the launch of a Rehabilitation Centre for Juveniles in Karachi was also on the agenda. The Centre would include a welfare center and would provide vocational and technical training, thereby facilitating juvenile delinquents’ personal development and easing the process of reintegration into society.

In his closing address, the Chairman of the LRF stressed the importance of the Right to Education, especially when concerning juveniles. He said that a Vocational and Technical Training Centre would give hope to juveniles in the increasingly competitive and globalized society in which we live. Participants then thanked the Chairman for his tireless efforts in advocating for juvenile rights. The evening ended with a dinner in celebration of Malik Tahir Iqbal for his success in the 2008 JusticeMakers Fellowship competition.

Tahir and the LRF work to ensure safer prison conditions for juveniles

JusticeMakers fellow Malik Tahir Iqbal paid a visit to the Malir Courts District Jail with two other members of the Legal Rights Forum team, Safi-ud-din and Shoiab Safdar. The main purpose of the visit was to assess whether juvenile prisoners are being held in a secure environment and that their legal rights and protections are being upheld.

The team spoke with various police-officials, including the chief officer, and asked them to fill out questionnaires. It quickly became evident that a number of them were unaware of the existence of any legal rights for juveniles.

Juvenile and women prisoners were being held at the same institution, and two of the cells at the Malir Courts District Jail were holding both adult male prisoners and juveniles. The team also met with inmates to hear views on the conditions they are subjected to. They complained about the behavior of two specific police-officers and the LRF have promised to take action.malirinmates.JPG

Pakistan’s LRF work to prevent police violence against juveniles

On the 6th of March of this year the Legal Rights Forum (LRF) held a press conference at Karachi Press Club to highlight the issue of police violence against children.

LRF Chairman and 2008 JusticeMakers fellow, Malik Tahir Iqbal, chose to focus on one case in particular – that of a seventeen year old boy who was accused of alleged robbery. The child’s grandmother had filed a petition for the release of her grandson at the Malir Court in January of this year. The child had also been arrested for robbery in 2006, but then released on bail.According to the findings of the LRF team, the child was arrested late one night and was held at a police station, where he was subjected to mental and physical torture and sexual abuse – acts that constitute a gross violation of child and human rights, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and under Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. Neither his family nor his probation officer were informed of the arrest. youthful_offenders_prison_310309.bmp
pressconference.jpg Although the child claimed that the allegations against him were false, he was told that if he did not confess to the crime, a video of him being abused and tortured would be distributed online. The video was recorded on a mobile phone, and then uploaded to the internet from a local cyber-café. The child’s family and friends say that this act constitutes an act of extortion and blackmail. His father, a wealthy man who has been working abroad in the UK, said that the family has already given money to numerous police officers in an attempt to end the circulation of the video.

At the press conference, the LRF team strongly recommended that a government appointed official conduct further investigation into this case and that the government of Pakistan ensure the future protection of the child and his family.