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265 Pakistanis being held in Afghanistan jails: Report

January 25, 2011 - Islamabad

For the first time, the United States has confirmed the presence of Pakistani nationals in jails across Afghanistan.

"A very small number - under 50 - of our detainee population are third-country nationals [neither US nor Afghan citizens] and that out of this group, slightly more than half are Pakistani," The Nation quoted a US spokesman at Bagram, as telling BBC Urdu in an interview.

"The US captures and detains individuals - including, in some cases, individuals who are not Afghan nationals - consistent with the law of armed conflict," he added.

The spokesman further said: "We ensure all detainees are treated humanely, in accordance with all applicable US law and policy, including (Common Article III of) the Geneva Conventions."

Although access to the Bagram detention centre is restricted, a BBC correspondent visited Pul-e-Charki jail on the outskirts of Kabul to see whether it was holding Pakistani prisoners accused of having links to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

He discovered that over one hundred Pakistanis were held in that prison alone, and a total of 265 were being held throughout the country, as opposed to the figures revealed by the US spokesman at Bagram.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry confirmed their presence at Bagram, but refused to speculate on the date of their release.

"We hope they will be set free soon, but that decision has to be taken in Washington," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.

According to the report, Pakistan's handing of terrorist suspects to the US has previously raised much uproar in the country, with many saying that the abduction is unconstitutional.

The exact charges against the prisoners and the allegations against them are often vague and unclear, and have therefore raised human rights concerns, it added.


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