Fatima Bibi, left, and Fazal Naeem show pictures of their family members who are held by the US at a prison in Afghanistan during a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. –AP Photo
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani legal aid group Wednesday said dozens of Pakistani prisoners held by the US at an Afghan prison were at risk of falling into indefinite detention due to stalled negotiations between the US and Pakistan over their repatriation.
The Justice Project Pakistan represents Pakistani prisoners held in Afghanistan and their families.
The group said there were about 60 foreign detainees including 40 believed to be of Pakistani descent at the Parwan Detention Facility, often referred to as Bagram prison. Most were taken into custody by US forces following the US invasion of Afghanistan.
The prison has been compared to the Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba.
The report issued by the group said negotiations between the US and Pakistan stalled over concerns they might return to the battlefield or face inhumane treatment at home.
The legal aid group urged Pakistan to put pressure on the United States to free the detainees held without charge before Nato troops leave Afghanistan next year.
The suspected Islamist fighters, who also include some Saudis and Kuwaitis, were exempted when the United States handed final responsibility for more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram to Afghan authorities in March.
“The Afghan government took back 3,000 prisoners from the US. Why can we not do that for our 40 people?” Pakistani lawyer Sarah Belal told a news conference in Islamabad.
The issue gets scant attention in Pakistan, but campaigners hope the new Pakistani government, elected in May, and the looming end of the Nato mission will inject new urgency.
“We want the new government to take notice of this issue ... It is our government's job to fight with the Americans” for the release of these detainees, Belal added.
In a report financed by the US-based Open Society Foundations, Justice Project Pakistan calls on Islamabad and Washington to work together to release the prisoners before the end of 2014.
The 50-page report, called “Closing Bagram, The Other Guantanamo”, proposes a series of steps to accelerate the release of the Pakistani detainees and to facilitate their return home.
The United States faces huge challenges deciding what to do with detainees it regards as dangerous, who have been held in some cases for years without trial – an issue that has fuelled anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.
Washington has repatriated foreign terror suspects imprisoned without trial in Bagram, but the process can drag on for years.