Pakistan mulls receiving its nationals from Guantanamo Bay amid legal hitches
Pakistani authorities confirm US charged none of 3 individuals with any crime or sentenced them
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is mulling over receiving its five nationals detained in the Guantanamo Bay prison amid legal hitches as the country does not have any agreement/MoU on transfer of prisoners with the USA.
These prisoners have been cleared for release by the US authorities and the next steps are now being determined by the US side. According to well-placed sources, on 30th June 2021, the then advisor to the PM on Accountability and Interior, Shehzad Akbar had written a letter to the US Secretary of State, Blinken for repatriation of three Pakistani prisoners languishing in Guantanamo Bay prison. They include Saifullah Paracha, Abdul Rabbani Abd Al Rahim Abu Rehman, and Muhammad Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani. On the other hand, Pakistan does not have any agreement/MoU on transfer of prisoners with the USA currently nor any such agreement is in the pipeline. Additionally, Pakistan does not have any specific policy for prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Anyhow, in response to the Pakistani request, the US government had in December 2021, asked for the repatriation of three Pakistanis at the earliest. Subsequently, the Pakistani authorities gave emphasis on verifying the identities of the prisoners. The NADRA and IMPASS were contacted by the ministry of interior for verification, according to the sources. NADRA only verified the nationality of Saifullah Paracha along with family profile, whereas no record was found for the remaining two prisoners. However, the IMPASS confirmed issuance of passports to the prisoners from the Pakistan’s counsel general at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1992. The FIA and Interpol however, gave nil report of their travel history. Home department of Sindh was also approached by the ministry of interior for the ground check of Abdul Rabbani and Muhammad Rabbani. Then IGP Sindh stated that both the addresses provided for the ground check were incomplete and sought further information of detainees and their relatives to finalise the matter, said the sources.
Later, citing a US diplomatic note, the Pakistani authorities confirmed that none of the three individuals had been charged with a crime or sentenced in the United States, and three of them have freely consented to repatriation, and that all of them are citizens of Pakistan and make no claim to possess citizenship of any other country. Prisoners are usually repatriated through an extradition treaty between the countries and FIA executes the same. Prisoners then serve their remaining sentence in Pakistani jails. On the other hand, the ministry of interior does not have any such treaty with the US. The Pakistani authorities are deliberating this issue further and formulating a responsibility matrix to execute the repatriation, said the sources further. On the other side, the embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC has informed the Pakistani authorities that five Pakistani nationals are currently detained in Guantanamo Bay prison that include Mohammad Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani, Majid Khan, Abdul Rabbani Abd Al Rahim Abu Rahman and Saifullah.
Weeks before, the United States had released an Afghan national, Assadullah Haroon, detained in the Guantanamo Bay prison and handed him over to the Taliban government in Kabul. According to the sources, the US was preparing to resettle the Afghan citizen, Asadullah Haroon Gul aka Al-Afghani from Guantanamo Bay in Pakistan where his family is already residing as the US was unlikely to return him to Afghanistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, an official spokesperson of the Taliban regime, said the detainee was released as a result of the “efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and its direct and positive interaction with the United States”. According to the sources, Gul was reportedly captured along with six other men in an operation by the Afghan security forces in 2007. They were allegedly part of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbadin (HIG). In October 2021, Gul won a writ for habeas corpus and was cleared for release by the US Periodic Review Board.
The Guantanamo Bay prison has drawn worldwide condemnation for holding large numbers of prisoners without charging them or holding trials. Its population peaked at about 800 inmates, and then declined sharply during the 2009-2017 Obama administration. At least 37 detainees remained at Guantanamo Bay, as per a statement by the US Defence Department in April.