Disappearing In Secret Pakistani and US Prisons
US reporting on General Musharraf's suspension of Pakistan's Constitution and displacement of its Supreme Court focused on Musharraf's desire to remain in office. Musharraf also claimed the Court had undermined his fight against terrorism. But today's New York Times reveals that Musharraf also had the same motives the Bush Administration has in preventing their respective illegal detention programs from seeing the light of day or facing judicial scrutiny.
Today's article by reporter Carlotta Gall reveals that in apparent cooperation with US CIA and other officials, Musharraf had, long before his recent emergency actions, arrested hundreds, perhaps thousands of Pakistanis and detained them in secret prisons without charges. Some of the detainees were then rendered by US agents into Afghanistan, other countries, or Guantanamo, where some still languish without charges.
Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say.
Those released, they say, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington's fight against terrorism since 2001.The US version of the role of the Pakistani Supreme Court has sometimes portrayed the Chief Justice as arbitrarily releasing terrorists. But the Times article reveals that the Pakistani Chief Justice began looking into the cases of hundreds of "disappeared" Pakistanis, forcing the government to reveal who was being held, where, and under what charges. And the judicial exposure was forcing the Musharraf government to secretly release the discovered detainees for whom no charges could be found so as to avoid further publicity and judicial scrutiny.
While Mr. Musharraf criticized the court as being soft on terrorists, court records show that Mr. Chaudhry was less interested in releasing terrorism suspects than in making sure their cases entered the court system.
He said at each hearing that his primary concern was for the families of the missing, who were suffering anguish not knowing where their loved ones were.
His main aim was to regularize the detention of the missing, not to free them, Mr. Siddiqui said. "Not a single person who was convicted was released on the Supreme Court's order," he said.
Detainees have been warned on their release not to speak to anyone about their detention, yet fragments of their experiences have filtered out through relatives and their lawyers. A few even appeared in court and told their stories, and it became increasingly clear that the "disappeared" men had in fact been held in military or intelligence agency cells around the country, often for several years without being charged.
In some cases, detainees recounted that they had been interrogated in the presence of English-speaking foreigners, who human rights officials and lawyers suspect are Americans.
A United States Embassy spokeswoman said she could not comment on the allegations and referred all questions to Washington. A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, Mark Mansfield, declined to comment on Mr. Rehman's accusations, or on any specific detainees.