LAHORE – The United States has refused to repatriate 32 Pakistanis detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, a director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday.

Afghanistan Desk Director MFA Jalil Khattak appeared before the court of Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan to explain the Ministry’s stance over a petition seeking repatriation of 32 Pakistani detained by US forces at Bagram jail. The Ministry had written a letter to the US State Department for release of the detainees but US government had declined the same, Khattak stated ,adding, that diplomatic efforts were underway for their repatriation.

At this, Justice Mahmood Khan asked the Director to produce the letter written to US State Department to ascertain the Ministry’s efforts on the issue. However, he failed to produce the copy of letter.

The judge observed: “It is our duty to repatriate our citizens and provide them with their identification. We should work day and night to bring our people home. Telephones, letters and other such correspondence are not enough. This is the least we can do for our citizens languishing in jails abroad.”

Representing petitioner, Barrister Sarah Belal pointed out that some other developing countries had been much more aggressive in retrieving their citizens from indefinite detention at Bagram.  She said German government took only three months to repatriate its citizens from Bagram and yet Pakistanis had been languishing there for several years.

“We are not on opposite sides and hope to work together with our government to bring home our citizens,” she contended.

Justice Project Pakistan, a fellow of Reprieve (a UK based organisation) in Pakistan, filed the petition. Initially the petition was filed for seven Pakistanis prisoners. Later it was revealed that more Pakistanis were also detained at the jail.

The petitioner submitted that the citizens had been detained at Bagram jail without any charge or trial since 2003.

It alleged they were abducted from Pakistan and shifted to the notorious US prison in Afghanistan.

The seven include Awwal Khan, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Fazal Karim, Amal Khan, Iftikhar Ahmad and Younas Rehmatullah.