Former Guantanamo Bay detainees find that life doesn't get any easier

AP , ISLAMABAD

Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 5

After four years in detention, Isa Khan was released from the US jail for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay last year and repatriated to Pakistan, but he says he's still not a free man.

Khan, a physician, said Pakistani authorities keep him under surveillance and restrict his movements even though he's been cleared of any link to terrorism. The monitoring, he says, has caused him to contemplate suicide.

The government denies harassing any of the 60 Pakistanis who have been freed from Guantanamo, but Pakistan's human rights commission said on Tuesday it is investigating similar complaints from other former detainees.

Khan was sent to the prison at the US naval base in Cuba after being detained by US forces in Afghanistan in late 2001. He spoke to the press in Islamabad this week -- which he claimed flouted rules laid down by authorities that he shouldn't talk to the media or leave his northwestern hometown of Bannu without permission.

"For four to five years, I cannot move anywhere, that's what the investigating officer told me," Khan said.

Khan was released from Guantanamo early last year, then held in Pakistani prisons where he was interrogated by Pakistani agents. When he was finally freed last summer, he said he was ordered to report regularly to local authorities.

He claims he was told not to approach a mosque, a school, a hospital, or associate with young people without permission.

Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, head of the crisis management cell at the Interior Ministry, said anti-terrorism laws allow agencies to monitor former detainees, but denied there were any limitations on Khan.

"There is no restriction on him to work. He can lead a normal life," Cheema said.

Some former Guantanamo detainees have become fighters in Pakistan -- or rejoined the armed struggle in Afghanistan -- since their release.

Yet according to copies of official documents provided by Khan, he is not deemed a security risk.

One Interior Ministry paper, dated May 10 last year, noted: "The suspect ... Khan was interrogated by Joint Investigation Team [JIT] staff but [they] found nothing adverse against him with regard to sabotage activities. He went to Afghanistan along with his Afghan in-law's relatives for living there and nothing else. Therefore, he is unanimously graded as `WHITE.'"

People declared "white" by security agencies are those with no cases pending against them.

Khan used to run a clinic in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. He live there with his Afghan wife and six-year-old son and was detained shortly after the Taliban regime fell to US troops.

"I don't know why they kept me for four years, why they arrested me," he said, adding that he was not linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Now Khan says he has no job prospects, no money and lives with his sick parents and two sisters. He hasn't seen his wife or son since his release.

Many Pakistanis went to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban and scores ended up in Guantanamo. Cheema, the Interior Ministry official, said seven or eight Pakistanis are among about 500 detainees at Guantanamo. He said about 60 Pakistanis have returned from the prison and all have been freed to go home.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was investigating complaints about surveillance from other former detainees.

"Our view is that if surveillance has happened, it is undemocratic," said director Kamila Hyat. "This is a violation of human rights."

Khan said he never harbored any Islamic militant sentiments, but that his treatment at the hands of US and Pakistani authorities has made him bitter.

"If they are thinking that they can get peace by force, it is impossible," Khan said. "People will start hating them."