LAHORE: Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan of the Lahore High Court has directed the Foreign Ministry to take effective steps to bring back the 37 Pakistani prisoners detained at Bagram prison.
Justice Khan also reprimanded a counsel for the ministry as he requested the court for more time to do the needful done. The judge remarked that several such requests have been made, but nothing has been done.
On the other side, Barrister Sara Bilal, the counsel for the prisoners, submitted a draft of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) before the court to be hand over to the ministry for ensuring that both the US and Pakistan governments agree to securely transfer the Pakistani detainees at Bagram back to Pakistan through a peaceful and diplomatic approach.
Bilal said the draft MoU was in line with the one signed between Afghanistan and US governments for transferring the custody of over 3000 Afghan detainees. She stated that it would be deplorable if Pakistan could not get this MoU signed for the 37 Pakistanis who have been illegally detained for years.
The Barrister argued that with the US handover of Bagram prison to Afghan authorities complete, the fate of the 50 non-Afghan prisoners held there has become still more pressing. She added “The next few months are critical to ensure Pakistani citizens are not left in indefinite detention in a legal black hole of Bagram. Yet the government, which is supposed to defend its citizens, is instead wasting time by filing meaningless reports and failing to make any real progress. It is urgent they take real action now – otherwise they risk being caught up in serious breaches of domestic and international law.”
The court was holding proceedings on petition filed by Sultana Noon, representative of the non-profit law firm Justice Project Pakistan, a fellow of Reprieve (a UK based organization) in Pakistan. Initially the petition was filed for 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 they were abducted from Pakistan and shifted to the notorious US prison in Afghanistan.
The seven prisoners named in the JPP petition are Awal Noor, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Faizal Karim, Amal Khan,Yunus Rahmatullah and Iftikhaar Ahmed.
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Sometimes I wonder whether you judges know that their authority stops at your border - I also wonder whether they have a clue that neither Afghanistan or the USA is obligated to hand over prisoners whether you ask nicely or make demands.