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Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Pakistan police filmed beating robbery suspects

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

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Footage of the whipping was broadcast on national TV channels. Footage from Express TV

Five police officials in the Pakistani province of Punjab have been arrested for publicly whipping robbery suspects in their custody.

The officials were arrested after footage of them whipping the suspects was broadcast on national TV channels.

The four men had been arrested on suspicion of stealing rice.

The incident highlights a common practice by Pakistani police, who have a long-standing reputation for brutality and torture.

Human rights activists have condemned the incident.

'Unacceptable'

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"Such behaviour is unacceptable by any official of the force," said the head of the Punjab police, Inspector General Tariq Saleem Dogar.

He was speaking after ordering the arrest of the policemen involved in the incident.

Mr Dogar said he had also suspended the local chief of police and ordered an inquiry into the incident.

The beating took place on 1 March in the central Punjab town of Chiniot.

Locals journalists say the four accused had been arrested a few days earlier on suspicion of being involved in robbing a rice truck.

On Monday, the men were taken into the courtyard of the police station where they were being held.

'Barbaric'

Two were then whipped with a thick leather strap with a flat end.

File photo of men in Pakistani army uniform seen beating a militant suspect in a video posted in October
The Pakistani authorities are often accused of human rights abuses

The other two men were taken outside the premises of the station and whipped next to a road.

The incident was a spectacle for locals, one of whom filmed it.

The footage shows one policeman holding the legs of a victim, while another stands on his hands.

A third uses the strap to maximum effect. During this time the other victim is made to watch and then is treated in a similar manner.

Human rights activists in Pakistan have condemned the incident.

Asma Jahangir, head of the influential Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, called it "barbaric" and demanded strong punishments for those involved.



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