Pak evasive on bid for top UN slot
Trade with China via Nathu La from July 6
Tipton Three treated worse
The following are the excerpts from the interview.
How did you end upin Afghanistan?
We travelled to Pakistan for my friend Asif’s wedding in October 2001. While there we went to a mosque one day where the imam told us that as good Muslims we should go and help the people in Afghanistan.
The US had begun its invasion of Afghanistan. Before we left for Pakistan there was a lot of mixed coverage in the British media about the Taliban —some said it was good, others said it was bad.
At the time we went there, there were all these aid workers going to Afghanistan from Pakistan. We too wanted to go and help with distribution of aid. We made our decision within a few hours.
We went to Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan where the fighting was very heavy. We managed to escape from Kunduz during a siege on the back of trucks. We were stopped by Northern Alliance forces on the outskirts of the city. Negotiations were done with the Taliban officials and we were handed over to the Northern Alliance. They didn’t speak any English. We were rounded up and taken to Sheberghan Prison, near Mazar-i-Sharif, where we were held for a month. The night before we were handed over to the alliance there was a massacre — we lost our friend Munir Ali in the confusion and haven’t heard from him since.
We ended up in a prison run by Gen. Dostum who eventually handed us over to the US Special Forces. We were then sent to Kandahar air base, which the Americans were in charge of. We spent six weeks there — after which we were taken to Guantanamo Bay where we spent two and a half years.
How were you treated atGuantanamo Bay?
At Camp X-Ray we were treated like animals. There was no tap, no sink; we would drink water from a hosepipe.
At Camp Delta all we had was a bunk, a sink and a toilet. The conditions were terrible and it was extremely hot. We were only allowed showers once a week. So we had to wear the same clothes all week and we used to really stink. The hygiene was very bad.
There was also a constant fear that we would be beaten and tortured by the American guards — all you had to do was look at a guard. They would put us in stress positions — these positions don’t leave any marks or bruises but are very, very uncomfortable to be in — and this could go on from 10 minutes up to two days, depending on how harsh the interrogators were. We were always worried that we might be killed at any moment.
They would have dogs barking at you and use bright strobe lights and play loud music to torture us. Interrogators insisted we were Al-Qaida and were part of the Taliban. It was unbearable.
Were you kept in solitaryconfinement?
I was kept in solitary confinement for months at Camp X Ray and Camp Delta. But I was never told why.
At night, they would put the air-conditioner on really low and would take away our blankets. All we had was a solid metal block and it would be really cold and you could not sleep.
Inside the isolation block it would be really hot during the day. In the night you would be freezing and in the day they would turn off the AC and it would be really, really hot. And they would also shut off the air vents. There was no way we could sleep.
Did the American guards use dogs to intimidate the prisoners?
They used dogs many times to intimidate us. One detainee from Saudi Arabia was in isolation and the guards let a dog into his cell and it bit a chunk off his calf. They used dogs against me too but they didn’t actually bite me.
Were you surprised by the recent suicides by three inmates at Guantanamo Bay?
I wasn’t surprised at all. I contemplated committing suicide in the two and a half years I was there. We were in a situation where they dehumanize you. You didn’t know if you could ever go home. We were made to sit in cells indefinitely and we thought a lot about the desperate situation we were in. We had no access to anything.
Many detainees tried to commit suicide. But these three are the first who actually managed to do it. It is psychologically very draining. It is very despicable. There are no words to describe the situation at Guantanamo.
While you were at Guantanamo were you witness to any suicide attempts?
Many detainees tried to cut themselves or hang themselves with their sheets. The US government has said there were 46 occasions where inmates tried to commit suicide, which is rubbish because when I was there people tried to commit suicides in the hundreds.
Should the prison be shut down?
I believe Guantanamo Bay should not have been opened since Day One. Of course, it should be shut down. It is against the constitution of America, it is against civil rights, human rights and against every international law and rule. It is against democracy.
How have you adjusted to life in Britain since your release?
We’re having a hard time. People have all these questions - specially now with the war in Iraq always in the news. We are finding it difficult to integrate into society.
Pak evasive on bid for top UN slot
Islamabad, June 19
All official statements on the hot subject emanating from the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN in New York point to this direction.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, who is also director-general of the UN Division, has remained evasive and guarded on the subject. She has restrained herself to general statements such as: no decision in this regard has been taken so far and Pakistan will look at all options. Also, she has termed as mere speculation the names being mentioned from Pakistan which include Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Nafis Sadiq, former head of the UN Population Fund who is currently UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on HIV/Aids and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Other officials at the Foreign Ministry contacted by The Dawn were equally non-committal when asked if Pakistan would make a formal announcement in this regard. “Well that would be assuming Pakistan is considering fielding a candidate,” is how one senior official put it.
Soon after India officially endorsed its candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General, Mr Akram was quoted as saying that Pakistan had also been giving serious consideration to fielding a candidate for the job.
Indications are that for the moment Pakistan has decided to adopt a policy of ambiguity on this key question as no timeline has yet been set by the UN Security Council for countries to announce their nominees.
Observers say ambiguity suits Pakistan at this point.
However, the declaration by the Foreign Office spokesperson on Friday that Islamabad does not want Asia divided and wanted consensus in the region suggests that Pakistan may opt not to add to the division.
Trade with China via Nathu La from July 6
Beijing, June 19
The reopening of Nathu La Pass would give a major boost to the local economies of the land-locked mountainous regions of the two Asian giants and promote bilateral trade.
The delegations of the two sides reached agreement and signed the agreed minutes late last night, an official source told PTI today on phone from Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region.
The agreement allows residents living on the border areas of the two countries to trade nearly 30 items mentioned in the border trade agreements of 1991, 1992 and 2003.
The items, including agricultural implements, foodgrain, blankets, agro-chemical products, dry fruits, beverages and canned food, have reportedly been approved by the Indian government for trade, according to media reports.
"The resumption of border trade is a great historic event, not only for enlarging trade, but also for greater relations between the two great countries," said Additional Secretary, Christy Fernandez, who headed the Indian delegation.
"The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting market economy there," Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Hao Peng, who led the Chinese delegation, said.
"It will also boost the transportation, construction and service industries, paving the way for a major trade route that connects China and south Asia," he said.
Trading through Nathu La Pass accounted for 80 per cent of the total border trade volume between China and India in the early 20th century. However, trading through this pass was suspended in 1962 after the India-China border conflict.
The pass is 4,545 metre above sea level. It is 460 km away from Lhasa and 550 km from Kolkata. The pass used to be an important trade passage between China and India and part of the fabled 'Silk Route.' — PTI