Pakistani prisoners at Guantanamo, Bagram await freedom

  • US yet to charge three detainees at Guantanamo Bay facility despite lapse of 16 years
  • Afghan authorities reticent on providing consular access to 211 detainees at Bagram

ISLAMABAD: It seems that the federal government has no or little concerns about its nationals kept in detention in Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons by the United States and Afghan authorities as some of the prisoners have not even been charged for any crime despite a detention of many years.

Documents available with Pakistan Today suggest that the US authorities have been holding five Pakistani nationals at Guantanamo Bay prison out of which three Pakistanis have not been charged for any crime despite the lapse of one and a half decade.

One of the detainees is co-accused in the trial related to 9/11 incident while another has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and murder. But the remaining three have not been charged with any crime yet.

The ministry documents claim that the Pakistani mission in the US is in contact with the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Bay closure and seeks the status of these five Pakistani nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay detention facility regularly.

“We have consular access to them as well and our mission in Washington has been coordinating with US State Department after consultation with the ministry as well as National Crisis Management Cell of FIA and Ministry of Interior to discuss legal options for repatriation of Pakistani nationals from Guantanamo Bay prison. We also obtained complete details from US side of Pakistani prisoners currently detained in the US and explored the possibility of their repatriation in consultation with legal experts,” said an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

Interestingly, there are 211 Pakistanis held at Bagram detention centre by the US and Afghan forces and the MoFA has failed to gain access to the detainees.  The Afghan government is also not willing to provide consular access to Pakistani missions for the 211 detainees.

“Our embassy officials in Kabul visited Bagram detention facility on February 14 this year. During the visit, the Afghans informed that around 211 Pakistani prisoners were detained at the facility under various charges including terrorism, spying, illegal border crossing and travelling without documents,” said the official at the MoFA.

“Our officials were not permitted to meet the detainees in person. However, they were presented in three groups of 25 detainees each for general interaction.”

The official said that Pakistani missions in Afghanistan remain consistently in touch with Afghan authorities to extend all possible legal assistance to Pakistani detainees in Afghan jails.

“However, the Afghan government is reticent on providing consular access to our missions. Details on the number of Pakistanis imprisoned and nature of their charges and status of their terms/sentences are also not made available,” the official said.

The official documents reveal that the family members of Pakistani prisoners and international humanitarian organisations like ICRC share details with MoFA on Pakistani prisoners in Afghanistan.

“Due to the efforts of our mission in Afghanistan, 44 Pakistanis detained at Bagram prison were released and repatriated to Pakistan. In addition, the release of many other Pakistani nationals from various jails in Afghanistan has been secured since 2014. Our Missions in Afghanistan remain vigilant and pursues all cases of arrest and detention of Pakistani nationals in Afghanistan,” the MoFA official concluded.