LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday expressed dismay over lethargic approach of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in confirming the nationality of 32 Pakistanis detained by American forces at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan observed that the Ministry had miserably failed to comply with an earlier order of the court about confirming the nationality of the Pakistanis despite the passage of one month.
Justice Khan summoned Director Afghanistan desk at MoFA to appear before the court on the next date of hearing, July 13, with all the records related to the Pakistani detainees at Bagram.
As proceedings started on Wednesday, a representative of the foreign affairs ministry submitted a report stating that letters had been sent to the families of detainees and a list of their names was provided to the Ministry of Interior for confirmation.
To bring effect to the release of the detainees, the government must provide humanitarian and security assurances to the US authorities to secure the exit visas and repatriation, the report said. However no concrete evidence was presented in court by the ministry to show that such steps were being taken, the judge observed.
He also took the Ministry’s representative to task for the department’s inability to compile basic details for Pakistanis who had already spent several years in Bagram.
The court also criticised the MFA’s lack of empathy for the Pakistani detainees and their families, warning the Ministry not to force his hand on holding all Ministry officials accountable. “We must not let it get to the point where secretaries concerned end up in jail,” he said.
Representing the families of detainees, Barrister Sarah Belal, told the court that the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has filed reports before the Lahore High Court confirming the nationality of these detainees. The Barrister added that It is incomprehensible why the MFA wanted to disavow the detainees as Pakistani citizens.
On the previous hearing, Barrister Sarah Belal had informed the Court that there is a three step process for bringing home detainees; the first was nationality must be confirmed, then humanitarian and security assurances must be provided and then they will be repatriated. The US embassy filed a diplomatic note before the LHC confirming this procedure.
Sultana Noon, representing 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 the release and repatriation of seven Pakistanis prisoners. Later it was revealed that more Pakistanis were also detained at the jail.
The petitioner submitted that the citizens had been detained at Bagram jail without any charge or trial since 2003. She alleged that 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.
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