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BBC NEWS: Pakistanis tell of US prison horror

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  • SAPB &R
    The following news item from BBC News Online exposes the horrors in US prisons faced by the post-9/11 detainees. These detainees have nothing to do with the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2002
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      The following news item from BBC News Online exposes the horrors in US
      prisons faced by the post-9/11 detainees. These detainees have nothing to do
      with the events of 9/11 and were swept up in the repressive backlash that
      followed 9/11 and have endured horrible abuse and indignities as they were
      disappeared, detained and then deported.

      From bbc.co.uk:
      ----------------------------------------------------

      I was shackled and handcuffed - completely bound - and questioned as if I
      were an associate of Osama Bin Laden - Mufeed Khan, Los Angeles resident

      Pakistan is co-operating with America... and America in return is treating
      Pakistanis as terrorists, Jahanzeb Zulfikar, Iowa resident

      Before 11 September we were Pakistani Americans - now we have become aliens
      who want to destroy America, Arshad Mehmood, Chicago resident

      Pakistan has been integral to the coalition against terror. This will
      influence public opinion, Mohammad Riaz, analyst

      Pakistanis tell of US prison horror

      Pakistanis repatriated in recent days say they have suffered months of
      "degradation" and "abuse" in prisons across the United States.

      Some 131 Pakistanis, many who had lived in the US for years, were deported
      and flown home two days ago - most charged by US immigration with
      overstaying their welcome and having invalid documents.

      All were detained in the months after the 11 September attacks on New York
      and Washington last year.

      The deportees arrived in Islamabad late on Thursday aboard a chartered
      Portuguese airliner, and were allowed to go to their homes.

      They accuse the US of forcibly sending them back following 11 September, and
      say the treatment meted out to them in prisons and in detention was inhuman
      and unjust.

      "I was treated as a terrorist. I was psychologically tortured in the
      prison," 35-year-old Mufeed Khan told the BBC on Saturday.

      "I was shackled and handcuffed - completely bound - and questioned as if I
      were an associate of Osama Bin Laden."

      Dream sours

      Mr Khan had lived in America for 11 years and ran a small business in Los
      Angeles before his detention in February this year.

      "For me America was the dreamland. I used to think that I was lucky to live
      in a liberal and democratic country.

      But the dreamland became hell for me after 11 September," he says. "Even if
      I was not carrying valid documents to stay there, I did not deserve such
      treatment.

      "I was treated badly because I am a Muslim.

      "Carrying a Muslim name should not be a crime. Not every Muslim is an
      extremist or a terrorist."

      'Injustice'

      Like Mr Khan most of the deportees complained of ill treatment by the US
      authorities.

      Jahanzeb Zulfikar, 28, is one of them. He had been detained since April.

      He says he went to the US on a student visa when he was just 17 years old,
      and was living in Iowa.

      "I never thought I would be put through such mental torture. My rights were
      abused, my dignity violated and self-respect insulted and compromised in the
      detention centre," Mr Zulfikar told the BBC.

      "Pakistan is co-operating with America in its fight against terrorists - and
      America in return is treating Pakistanis as terrorists.

      "Isn't this injustice?"

      Tough laws

      In the aftermath of 11 September, strict legislation regarding immigration
      was introduced in the US.

      It gave sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies to detain people without
      charge.

      Many, even within the US, say the measures are "draconian".

      Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are still living in America.

      Since the 1980s, going to America has been a dream for many teenagers who
      want to make their fortunes in the United States.

      The exodus continued until recently. Many families have moved in their
      entirety, and are living there illegally.

      'Friend of Osama'

      But those who have been deported say the US authorities want to demoralise
      and discourage Pakistanis from staying in America.

      Arshad Mehmood, who lived in Chicago for almost a decade, has now been sent
      back.

      "For them (the American authorities) every Pakistani is now an activist of
      the Taleban or a friend of Osama. They do not want us to live over there.

      "Before 11 September we were Pakistani Americans - now we have become aliens
      who want to destroy America," Mehmood says.

      "They have deported me and allowed my wife and two children to stay in
      America.

      "Obviously we cannot live our lives like this. Soon my wife and children are
      coming to Pakistan," he says.

      'Betrayed'

      Pakistani officials say they are expecting more Pakistani deportees from
      America.

      The families and friends of those detained or deported are embittered by
      these accounts.

      There already exists anti-American sentiment in certain elements of society.

      Observers believe these accounts will further spur such feelings, even among
      those who were not initially hostile.

      "Most of these people are educated. They moved there for better economic
      opportunities," says one analyst, Mohammad Riaz. "Now people hear of them
      being treated as criminals.

      "They will feel betrayed, since Pakistan has been integral to the coalition
      against terror. This will influence public opinion."



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