LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday directed the ministry of foreign affairs to take steps within one month to secure the release and repatriation of Pakistani citizens detained at the Bagram Jail, Afghanistan.
Hearing a petition on the matter, Justice Muhammad Khalid Mahmood Khan expressed his dismay that the ministry had failed to take any concrete steps to secure the release of Pakistani nationals from a foreign prison so far.
Representing the ministry, a standing counsel told the court that the previous directions issued by court were to confirm the nationalities of the prisoners, however these orders never reached the ministry due to unavailability of a copy of the court’s written order.
Justice Khan lamented that the persons in question had been held without charge for years and now were being abandoned by their own government.
The standing counsel said the government will make serious efforts for the release of the Pakistani citizens once their nationality was confirmed.
On behalf of petitioner non-profit law firm Justice Project Pakistan, Barrister Sarah Belal argued that there was a three-step process for bringing home these detainees. First, the nationality of the detainees must be confirmed, then humanitarian and security assurances must be provided on behalf of the detainees and then they will be repatriated, she added.
At this, the judge remarked it’s a shame that a non-profit law firm was able to do more for these abandoned Pakistani citizens than their own government.
Barrister Belal said the petitioner was committed to representing all 32 Pakistani detainees at Bagram and she will not stop until the government of Pakistan had repatriated each and every one of these men.
On her request, the court also allowed the addition of two more detainees to the instant petition, increasing the total number of detainees represented by petitioner to nine.
The judge adjourned further hearing till June 30 and directed the ministry to come up with some result.
Sultana Noon, representative of the non-profit law firm Justice Project Pakistan, a fellow of Reprieve (a UK based organisation) in Pakistan, had filed the petition. Initially the petition was filed for seven Pakistanis prisoners. Later it was revealed that at least 32 Pakistanis were also detained at the jail.
Petitioner submitted that the citizens had been detained at Bagram jail without any charge or trial since 2003. She alleged they were abducted from Pakistan and shifted to the notorious US prison in Afghanistan.
These seven included Awwal Khan, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Fazal Karim, Amal Khan, Iftikhar Ahmad and Younas Rehmatullah.