Authorities have secretly eased travel restrictions on former inmates of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and some of them flew to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states recently, The Express Tribune has learnt.
These foreign trips were allowed even though the former terror suspects are on a watch-list under the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA).
The freed men were placed under schedule four of the ATA, which envisages close monitoring of dangerous individuals and proscribed organisations and bans their intra-country movement without prior approval by the concerned agencies and authorities.
However, officials in the Punjab home department and the interior ministry told The Express Tribune on Friday that authorities had allowed some of these former inmates to travel abroad on special permission, clearly defying the ATA and a tacit understanding with the United States. At least 60 Pakistanis were among dozens of terror suspects who were released from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
Only six Pakistanis, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad – the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks – are still detained at the facility.
The Express Tribune has learnt that Qari Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, who was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2009 and has been under strict watch of intelligence agencies since, had travelled to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in June.
Another former inmate Maulana Abdul Haleem Siddiqi, from Rahim Yar Khan district, performed Umrah earlier this year. Madni himself confirmed his foreign trips, but Siddiqi could not be traced for his comments.
Officials added that some other individuals had also traveled abroad in recent years.
“For almost half a decade, the ban was observed strictly. But now it appears that authorities are no longer interested in keeping so many people under close watch,” said an interior ministry official.
“People here say that these suspects were interrogated at Guantanamo Bay for years and ultimately released, because no evidence was found linking them to any terrorist activity. So what is the point for us to keep bothering them?”
It was one of the freed Guantanamo Bay inmates, Abdullah Mehsud, who was instrumental in establishing militant sanctuaries — a move that ultimately led to the emergence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The Pakistani military subsequently killed the one-legged Mehsud in 2007 in Zhob district of Balochistan, when he was travelling to South Waziristan from Afghanistan.
But his legacy still lives on in the form of some of the world’s deadliest militants. “That is what will definitely bother the Americans,” said the official.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.
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