14 Pakistanis repatriated after being released from Bagram prison in Afghanistan

Published: September 21, 2014
At least one Pakistani still believed to be held in Bagram prison in Afghanistan.. PHOTO: AFP

At least one Pakistani still believed to be held in Bagram prison in Afghanistan.. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: United States has released 14 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram prison in Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Saturday.

“Yes,” was a brief reply from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam when she was approached to confirm reports about the released prisoners. No further details about the prisoners was provided.

Earlier, reports suggested that a group of freed Pakistani had been handed over to officials at Noor Khan Airbase after they were airlifted from the Bagarm jail.

This was the second group of Pakistanis released from US custody within a month.

A group of nine Pakistani nationals were freed from Bagram last month, but a legal aid group looking at the case says have yet to re-join families.

So far no information has been provided by Pakistani authorities on the names of the released detainees or their current whereabouts, said Sarah Belal, a lawyer with Justice Project Pakistan which has been representing the families of Bagram prisoners since 2010.

One of the released detainees is 29-year-old Abdul Halim Saifullah, Belal said, citing information from the Red Cross.

The lawyer said Saifullah had disappeared nine years ago from Karachi after dropping his father off at a hospital. He is believed to have been detained at Bagram ever since.

Including the group released on Saturday, 39 Pakistanis have been released from Bagram in the past 10 months. At least one Pakistani is thought to still be in prison there, although the exact numbers are unclear since no official list has been provided since 2012.

Belal, lead counsel for Justice Project Pakistan, said the government did not inform the families about the release and she feared the men may now be transferred to prisons in Pakistan.

“We have heard that Foreign Ministry has confirmed the release of the new group but neither their families nor we have been informed about the development,” JPP spokesperson Shahab Siddiqi told The Express Tribune late Saturday.

Siddiqi said families of the last group of freed nine Pakistanis still do not have any information about their whereabouts.

“The JPP has serious concerns at the fate of the freed Pakistanis as legal aid has also been denied to them,” he said, adding lawyers have never seen any of their detention order.

Officials say the releases were part of an ongoing process to repatriate all Pakistanis detained at Bagram.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam had no confirmed number of the prisoners still languishing at Bagram.

“Information not readily available,” the spokesperson told The Express Tribune in a text message.

The JPP says it has been urging the government to share information about the current number of the prisoners.

“We have demanded an updated list if any other Pakistan has been arrested. There had also been some mistakes in the list as one name was registered twice,” Siddiqi said.

All the Pakistani prisoners of Bagram are believed to have been arrested either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Legal experts in Pakistan have strong reservations over the way the US deals with the Pakistani prisoners at Bagram.

Shahzad Akbar, who voluntarily pleads the cases of civilians affected by the US drones in Pakistan, says every prisoner has a right to due process and fair trial even if he is languishing at Bagram under terror charges.

“The fair trial demands lawyer of one’s choice. Similarly denial of trial is violation of fundamental right of any individual,” Akbar had earlier told The Express Tribune.

On Bagram detainees, he said trial before an independent forum that is the fundamental of due process is denied to prisoners at Bagram.

The US military, which had been under fire for denying the inmates’ legal rights, will lose legal authority to keep prisoners in Afghanistan, as it will end its combat mission in the country in few months.

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