Taken for a ride in the 'war on
terror' By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - Since the onset of the "war on
terror", the US has detained more than 3,000
people worldwide in a network of secret prisons
established by the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) in a number of regions, from Southeast Asia
to North Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe.
Revelations of this policy have drawn a
flood of criticism, with allegations that
prisoners held in such countries at the CIA's
behest could have been subject to unlawful
US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Germany, began her
tour of Europe this week with the admission that the
had made "mistakes" in the "war on terror". While
insisting that the US did not "condone" torture,
she said, "We recognize that any policy [such as
rendition of prisoners] will sometimes result in
She could well have been
referring to Pakistan, a key ally in this
Ever since signing on for the
"war on terror", the administration of President
General Pervez Musharraf has been under constant
pressure to clamp down on the many al-Qaeda-linked
and Afghan resistance figures known to have taken
shelter in the country.
generally tried to please, at times a little too
hard. In the past four years it has rounded up
many thousands of suspects, most of whom had
nothing to do with terrorism but were simply there
to make up the numbers.
"intelligence" is catching on.
Americans are not fools [in this game] any more.
They understand the gimmicks and now they do not
take any interest in such pseudo al-Qaeda people,"
said Khalid Khawaja, one-time close friend of
Osama bin Laden and also a former Inter-Services
Intelligence official. He now operates the
non-governmental organization Defense for Human
Rights, which provides legal relief for families
affected by the "war on terror".
of Abdullah Khadr is a good illustration. He was
roughed up in Pakistani custody before being
released and returned to Toronto, Canada, a free
man. But only after the US Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) refused to accept him.
The 24-year-old Canadian, whose brother is
the only Canadian held in the US detention center
in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the oldest of Ahmed
Said Khadr's four sons. The senior Khadr, an
accused terrorist financier, was killed in a 2003
shootout with Pakistani forces.
Khadr was questioned at the airport by RCMP [Royal
Canadian Mounted Police] investigators, then
dropped off at his grandparents' home in
Scarborough [a suburb of Toronto] and told he was
a 'free man', according to his relatives and
lawyer," the Toronto Star reported.
US officials told the Star that they might seek to
have charges laid against Khadr and have him
extradited to the US to face trial, security
sources in Pakistan revealed that Abdullah would
only have been released from Pakistan after being
thoroughly scanned, and the US refused to take him
as there was no evidence against him.
According to security officials who spoke
to Asia Times Online, there is now a long list of
such detainees in Pakistani custody, held under
various charges. They are carefully scrutinized by
US intelligence, and if found clear they are sent
back to their countries of origin.
"Pakistan has flooded CIA planes with
hundreds of accused in the past several months. Of
those hundreds, only a few dozen have been found
guilty. The rest became a liability and were
subsequently released," an official said.
These include Mohammed and Khalid, sons of
Shiekh Essa, who leads a group in al-Qaeda that
believes in violence against Muslim regimes that
are allied with the US. Abdur Rehman, a Pakistani,
was also recently handed over to Egypt after he
was presented to the FBI, which found him a "waste
Earlier, three Dutch-Pakistani
brothers, Sajeel Shahid, Adil Shahid and Sohail
Shahid, were kept in detention for a long period
by Pakistani authorities, but when the US found
them useless they were handed over to the Dutch
government, and they now live in the Netherlands
as free citizens. Sohail Shahid was chairman of
the Software Control Board and Adil Shahid was a
software advisor in the Pakistani armed forces. As
Sajeel Shahid ran a madrassa , they all
landed in trouble.
"This is a racket by
Pakistani and all other Muslim governments to
trade support for their dictatorships in the garb
of al-Qaeda arrests. Most of them turned out to be
pseudo and therefore exposed the intentions of
these regimes. Every now and then they carry out
operations in which they show hundreds of people
rounded up, and then they present them to the
FBI," said Khawaja.
"But now the Americans
understand this. Western governments' behavior is
far more humane than the so-called Islamic
"I was interviewed by
the Canadian media and they are telling me that
Abdullah Khadr is moving around on the Canadian
streets as a free man. On the contrary, when the
US releases Pakistanis from its Cuban prison, even
after much screening, they are immediately
detained at the airport [in Pakistan] and locked
in prisons for months," said Khawaja.
Arrests and operations have invariably
preceded all of Musharraf's foreign trips,
especially to the US. His present visit to the
Middle East was also preceded by a major crackdown
on militants in Pakistan.
interesting was the alleged killing of Hamza
Rabia, said to be a senior al-Qaeda commander.
Though the US doubted his killing and al-Qaeda
denied it, the Pakistani interior minister termed
Rabia's death "100% fact", while the minister of
information said it was "200% correct". Not to be
outdone, while in the Middle East for an
extraordinary summit of the Organization of
Islamic Conference in Mecca, Musharraf said it was
"500% certain" that Rabia was dead.
such fluctuating odds, who's betting on Pakistan
producing the goods for the US?
Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia
Times Online. He can be reached at