`Ask US why Pakistanis are held at Afghan jails`

A Pakistani court has directed the Foreign Ministry to write a letter to the US government.

Updated: Mar 22, 2012, 14:17 PM IST

Lahore: A Pakistani court has directed the Foreign Ministry to write a letter to the US government demanding the reasons for the arrest of seven Pakistani citizens and their detention at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

The Lahore High Court further directed the ministry to ascertain the charges levelled against the Pakistani detainees and said they should be freed and brought back to the country if there were no charges against them.

Justice Muhammad Khalid Mahmood Khan remarked during a hearing yesterday that Pakistani citizens were picked up within the country and illegally rendered to Bagram as "innocent victims" of the war on terror.

A Deputy Attorney General, who represented the federal government, told the court that a committee had been formed in keeping with its earlier order and diplomatic channels had been opened to ascertain the status of the detainees.

The judge, however, observed that the report filed by the Foreign Ministry showed that diplomatic negotiations were cursory at best.

Justice Khan referred to a case in Britain involving Pakistani detainee Younas Rehmatullah, in which a British court ordered Americans to hand him back to Britain. Rehmatullah was one of the Pakistanis citizen mentioned in the petition that was taken up by the Lahore High Court.

While directing the Foreign Ministry to send a letter to the US government seeking information about all Pakistani citizens detained at Bagram, the judge remarked that he would consider no action to have been taken until such a letter is sent to the US.

Sarah Belal, the petitioner`s counsel, told the court that under a new Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Afghan governments, the US had pledged to hand over all detention facilities in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities within six months.

She said the MoU made no mention of third country nationals being held at US detention facilities. Consequently, the future of any Pakistanis at Bagram was uncertain at best and they might "disappear" if no action is taken by the Pakistan government within the next six months, she said.

The judge adjourned the matter till April 25 and directed the federal government`s law officer to ensure compliance with the court`s order.

Petitioner Sultana Noon has submitted that seven Pakistanis had been detained at Bagram jail without any charge or trial since 2003.

She said they were abducted from Pakistan and shifted to the US prison in Afghanistan.