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Pakistan seeks a count of its men in Gitmo, Afghan jails

IANS | July 18 2006

Pakistan estimates that at least 50 of its citizens are held in the United States' Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba while some 1,000 have been languishing in Afghan jails for the past more than four years.

Sixty-seven Pakistanis have been released from Guantanamo Bay, some of whom pleaded innocent and levelled charges of torture by the American military captors.

The Dawn newspaper said the US has asked Pakistan to keep a vigilant eye on them.

While those arrested are civilians, Pakistan was able to rescue all its serving and retired officers and soldiers who were involved in aiding the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. A large number of them were airlifted from Konduz in Afghanistan in the first week of December 2001 as the Taliban forces began to retreat.

The US authorities have confirmed that there are 16 Pakistanis being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, including Karachi-based businessman Saifullah Paracha who allegedly provided financial support to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Dawn said, quoting an interior ministry source.

Paracha was picked up from an area bordering Afghanistan.

A delegation to be headed by National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) director Colonel Imran will visit the Guantanamo Bay prison Thursday to ascertain the exact number of Pakistani inmates and initiate the process for their repatriation.

Another delegation will leave for Kabul on Monday to seek the release of Pakistani prisoners from Afghan jails, said Interior Ministry Additional Secretary Qamar Zaman, who will be heading the delegation.

It is believed that more than 1,000 Pakistani prisoners are in Afghanistan, and some had been shifted from there to the Guantanamo Bay centre.

Zaman said Islamabad had not been provided an exact number of Pakistanis detained in Guantanamo but it was expected that the figure must be over 50. Most of them were arrested in Afghanistan, he said.

There are about 490 detainees in the Guantanamo Bay centre.

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