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Video clips: Whippings by police

With notes by C. Farrell

Pakistan - Eight clips.

These video extracts show the police in Punjab (the biggest province of Pakistan) administering judicial corporal punishment, under what authority is not clear. Whether it is lawful or not, it appears to be carried out with impunity. The practice is known locally as "Chitrol", though this word is also sometimes used to mean any random police violence.

Clip 1 of 8

Here we see half a dozen prisoners, chained together, being removed from an official vehicle and asked to lie face down in the street to be punished.

    One website has claimed that these young men are being disciplined for homosexual activity or just for being gay, possibly based on the fact that one of them is seen to kiss another man near the beginning of the clip. But kissing in some cultures does not necessarily have anything to do with sexuality, and can be just a form of greeting. Anyway, it has now been asserted by somebody claiming to be a Punjabi-speaker that one of the officials can be heard describing the men as common thieves. Can any reader throw any light on this?

    The punishment is applied to the buttocks with a leather paddle which appears to have been made especially for the purpose. According to anecdotal sources, this implement is called a "patta" and police in Punjab allegedly use it as a matter of course. The first strokes, one per prisoner, are given rather half-heartedly by a man in Islamic dress, but the paddle is then taken over by a policeman in uniform, who administers two strokes each in a slightly more determined manner, holding the implement with both hands. Even so, only one of the culprits shows any sign of a painful reaction. The clip ends before this round of whacks has finished, so we do not know if that was all there was or whether what we see was merely the first three of several more strokes per prisoner.

    The open involvement of the police, and what is apparently a prison van, makes the whole procedure appear official. This is in spite of the Abolition of the Punishment of Whipping Act (1996), under which only Hudood (Islamic religious) offences are supposed to be punished corporally, though there seems to be a lack of clarity as to what these might include. So it would appear that either the punishment seen here was ordered by a religious court, or else the police are simply acting extrajudicially of their own volition -- something one might have expected to be kept behind closed doors (see second clip, below). However, US State Department Human Rights Reports consistently noteEXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window that the police in Punjab are entirely corrupt and out of control, and blatantly act with impunity.


Clip 2 of 8

(Not for the squeamish)

This scene (32 seconds) is said to be taking place in a police station in Lahore (capital of Punjab). A young man is spanked hard (though rather ineptly) with a shoe or slipper on his bare buttocks. It was originally suggested that he was caught picking pockets, but it now turns out to have been done on the orders of a corrupt politician because of a personal vendetta. This arguably makes it even worse than if it was just the police acting beyond their powers over a real crime. It also means you could say this is not actually "corporal punishment" at all.


Clip 3 of 8

(Not for the squeamish)

A brief (15 seconds) but even more harrowing scene, evidently filmed, like clip 2 above, in a police station. A young man is receiving punishment on his bare buttocks with the special leather paddle or "patta" (see clip 1 above). He is not taking it at all well, and after two strokes he breaks away and writhes about, yelling.


Clip 4 of 8

In this 3-minute film, two offenders receive formal corporal discipline at Bhawana police station in Punjab. This takes place in an open-air yard. The two are brought forward and asked to take off their trousers and lie face down on the ground. Their shirts are flipped up to expose the bare buttocks for punishment. As before, the operator holds the "patta" with both hands and brings it back behind his head before each stroke. Other staff hold the culprits down as necessary. There is no indication as to what crime they have committed.


Clip 5 of 8

Here we appear again to be inside a police station, but this time we see a different punishment implement in use. Instead of the patta, the police officer is using a long stick, too thick and rigid to be called a cane in the British sense. Once again, though, it is administered exclusively to the buttocks, which remain clothed in this instance. Unusually, the culprit is simply standing there upright, with his hands on his head. After five strokes he tries to get away but is dragged back by his hair, and the clip ends in confusion.


Clip 6 of 8

This 1½-minute clip is somewhat similar to clip 1 above. The picture quality is mediocre. A number of offenders, said to be thieves, have been made to lie face down on the ground to receive strokes of the "patta" across the seat of their trousers. The technique used is always the same: the leather paddle is held with both hands and brought down from behind over the operator's head. Again, this is clearly happening in a public place. The punishment seems to be quite effective, producing yelps of pain from the recipients.


Clip 7 of 8

This 3-minute clip was perhaps filmed surreptitiously in difficult conditions, to judge from the wandering and jerky camerawork. We see the patta put to extensive use by the Punjab Police in Sheikhupura, near Lahore. The film is autodated January 2009. The news channel that originally showed the film described the event as "police torturing labourers", for what purpose was not explained.

    Two offenders are seen in the clip, both of whom make a lot of noise. The second one is receiving what one might think is an excessive number of very hard strokes of the patta. As usual, these are targeted quite precisely at the buttocks. The manner of delivery is the same as in the other clips, including the technique of applying half the strokes from one side of the prisoner and the other half from the other side, but this time the offenders are made to lie, not on the ground, but on what looks like an old bedstead.


Clip 8 of 8

A 1½-minute film made in 2008 in a busy street at night. Seven youths are made in turn to lie face down on the ground to receive one, two or three strokes of the "patta" on the seat of the trousers. As in clips 1 and 6 above, the police are acting completely openly. The punishment is not as severe as in some of the police-station scenes seen elsewhere on this page, and the offenders appear to accept it without much fuss.


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