The Lahore High Court on Thursday ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send representatives to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to interview seven Pakistanis allegedly detained there for several years by the US, and then report their findings to the families and the court within a month.
Though a deputy attorney general told the court that the government “won’t get permission” to visit Bagram, the judge insisted that it try harder to recover its citizens.
“How can you say that? Of course the Pakistan government can get access if it wants. I’m passing an order in any case, and if you don’t comply, this will go to the Supreme Court,” said Justice Khalid Mahmood.
The deputy attorney general said the government was doing all it could to access the prisoners. “Writing letters is not enough. You are supposed to do a lot more than that for Pakistani citizens,” Justice Mahmood said.
The deputy attorney general said the seven men had been detained as they had crossed over into Afghanistan to fight US forces. The judge asked him to obtain information about their arrests and the allegations against them so the families could pursue their cases with US authorities.
Barrister Sara Belal, representing Sultana Noon of Reprieve in Pakistan, a UK-based NGO that works for prisoners’ rights, submitted that the seven Pakistanis had been detained at Bagram without charge or trial since 2003. She said they had been abducted from Pakistani territory.
She said that Awwal Khan, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Fazal Karim, Amal Khan, Iftikhar Ahmad and Younas Rehmatullah had not been allowed access to lawyers or informed of the evidence against them. Belal said that some of the prisoners had been abused. One prisoner was seized two years ago at the age of 14. Another was not permitted to speak to his family for six years,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2011.
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