KARACHI: Uzair Baloch, whose extradition to Pakistan might have serious ramifications for the Pakistan Peoples Party, is a source of contention among the Pakistani authorities who have seemingly been trying to bring him back to the country from Abu Dhabi.
Uzair, a former chief of the defunct Peoples Amn Committee who was declared a ‘most-wanted criminal’ by the Sindh government, has been in the custody of the Abu Dhabi police for nearly three months. He was detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based on Interpol’s red-warrant on December 29 at the Dubai-Oman border.
The elusive self-styled don of the restive Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi, who managed to escape to the Middle East, after he was implicated in several cases by the Pakistan government, was finally apprehended by the Dubai border security personnel as he was crossing over from Oman. The security officials, on the basis of suspicion, put him through an eye-scan check that found he was on the Interpol’s most-wanted list. Uzair was subsequently handed over to the Abu Dhabi police and his case was sent to the court for repatriation to Pakistan.
As news of Uzair’s arrest was communicated to the Pakistani authorities by Interpol, a four-member team comprising DSP Zahid Hussain, SP Usman Bajwa, SP Naveed Khawaja and a Rangers official was sent to Abu Dhabi to take him into custody.
This was, however, no easy task largely due to the sheer incompetence of the team members, who had no idea how to handle a case of such a nature. Somehow, SP Usman Bajwa of the Counter-Terrorism Department managed to get himself stopped at the Dubai airport for just over two hours as he had felt it prudent to take along a revolver and handcuffs on the journey. He was released shortly after, but things just kept going sour for the team from then on.
Uzair is reported to have told the court that he is an Iranian national and would not want to be deported to Pakistan. His lawyer, one of the top criminal lawyers of the UAE, has appealed to the court that Uzair would be killed if given in the custody of the Pakistani authorities. He, however, could not prove his Iranian nationality as the sole Iranian passport he had was found to be forged.
What the defence doesn’t have in its favour are the 57 criminal cases registered against Uzair in Pakistan. What they are actually banking on is the ineptitude of the Pakistani authorities, who have failed time and again to produce the required documents to prove Uzair is a dangerous criminal with a most-wanted tag. The police officials presented his CNIC but failed to disclose his family tree. There was a delay of around a week or so to get the document. Then the paperwork had to be translated into Arabic. That took another 10 days.
The correspondence between the Abu Dhabi authorities and the delegation that went from Pakistan is also hampered by several middle-men and interlocutors. The team has not been allowed to meet Uzair. What makes the procedure more cumbersome is that the court issues instructions to the Interpol, who then communicate them to the Pakistani Consulate in Abu Dhabi. The consulate officials then communicate it to the team. The same sequence of events goes the other way too.
Is it always this difficult?
An official of the Dubai intelligence bureau claimed that Uzair could have been handed over to the Pakistani government a long time ago, had the authorities really wanted to bring him back. “There seems to be a lack of intent on the part of the Pakistani government to bring him back,” he believed. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that nowhere along the case had there been any communication between the two governments. “The Pakistani government is using weaker channels to appear like it wants to bring him back. If they did, they would have approached the UAE government through the proper bureaucratic channels.”
The court is expected to take up the hearing today. Uzair’s lawyer has expressed fears that his client will be killed in Pakistan. He has asked the Abu Dhabi authorities to reconsider their decision to deport him. It is likely the court will make the Pakistani authorities sign an affidavit that he will not be harmed before handing him over. Either that, or Uzair will be released and be bound to remain in Abu Dhabi as the authorities cannot detain him for longer than 90 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2015.