By Asim Qureshi – 23 February 2009
On his release from Guantanamo Bay, Badr-uz-Zaman and his brother Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost set about writing a book on their experiences in Pashto. Soon after the publication of the book Dost was detained and Badr-uz-Zaman was forced to go on the run. In this rare interview, Cageprisoners managed to speak with him about the latest developments in his brother’s case and those taking place in Guantanamo.
CAGEPRISONERS:The first thing we’d like to ask you is: how have things been for you since your release, in Pakistan, since your release from Guantanamo Bay?
BADR UZ ZAMAN BADR: Bismillah ir-rahman ir-raheem. Since we came out for the first few months, we were busy- guests were coming to meet us, to talk to us, media…which also put us in trouble. And at the same time you were writing about me and my brother Abdur-Raheem Muslim Dhost, we had co-authored a book in Pashto (our mother tongue), and that has also created problems for us. We were telling our story- even the details of what we have seen in our detention in Pakistan- with interrogations by the ISI and then we were taken to Bagram and Kandahar. And eventually, on 1st May 2002, (we went) to Guantanamo Bay.
So (having given) all the details, the authorities were not treating us well at that time- they didn’t like the idea. But we tried our best to inform the world about what’s going on to the brothers in jails, in Pakistan, in Bagram and Kandahar and Guantanamo. And after the publication of our book, Pakistani authorities tried to re-arrest us. They have succeeded in arresting my brother…after a year we were released, and we published our book. And they were looking for me at the time; I have not been arrested yet, but I’m in trouble- I’m not feeling well. You cannot live a normal life, even after detention they are looking for me, and their observers have come into our house…it’s not fair
CP: And can you tell us more about Abdur-Raheem Muslim Dhost’s (your brother’s) detention- when was he detained?
BZ: He disappeared for eight months- he was with security agencies, and though we had a little information because other detainees were coming out from the same detention (facility) and telling us where he was, he was with ISI, in the secret prisons that they have. I’ve personally been there- in some of the cells where they’re keeping detainees in illegal detention. And the same happened to my brother again- he disappeared for eight months, and then after that he was brought to the political agents in Khyber agency, and they wanted to put false charges against him. After eight months, they were trying to put an allegation against him; that he had been arrested with a missile.
Because my brother is a scholar- he speaks, he’s a writer, he’s a scholar- you can see the library, read his books. So they didn’t like him to speak-that’s why they arrested him. Before we published our book, they knew we were writing; they came to our house telling us that we should not publish our book or speak with the media, otherwise we should leave the country. We have been here in Pakistan for more than thirty years; we have grown up here in Peshawar, we came from a province near the border. But we have grown up here; we know a lot about Peshawar, and we have studied here- me and my brother and my friend, so we knew…
And they did not like the idea of publishing the book, and that’s why they were coming to our house telling us to be quiet or get out. So we had no option; so eventually, my brother was arrested- he disappeared for eight months, and now he’s in the central gaol of Peshawar. We saw his case in Peshawar High Court, but they dismissed his case, and he has been kept in detention under the Frontier Law- that’s what we call 40-FCR, and also they have put two charges against him. Foreign Act…FCR is the Frontier Crimes Relations. So if they want to put someone in detention for longer period, they put them in 40-FCR, where no one is helped legally. And we even saw our case in High Court- they have dismissed the case because the security agencies were interfering- our lawyer and the judges are helpless. You see the chief justice…there’s no justice here
CP: Can you tell us the sort of conditions your brother has been kept in? Has he been a victim or torture or abuse?
BZ: Yes; during our first detention, when we were arrested in 2001, we were tortured in their cells, and later on in Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo, and now they have detained my brother in the same way again. I can talk to him on the phone, and my nephews can meet…he’s in the central gaol now. So, he told us he’s been tortured, he’s not been given medication- he’s very sick, very weak, and there have been other people who also suffer like himself, and they had no access to legal help
CP: Going back a bit and the details of how it all began, why were you both arrested in the first place?
BZ: The actual reason was- we have been journalists, we have been writers- me and my brother- we have some publications in Pakistan; we were publishing three magazines during the Russian war- one in Pashto, one in Urdu and one in Arabic, (called) Al-Ihsaan; I can show you it here. And those publications were also banned by the security agencies because we were depicting the Afghan struggle against Russia, and what was going on after the Russians left Afghanistan- the civil war in Afghanistan, and the role of Pakistani security agencies, and the trouble of our people. And we were giving the facts, and that was not liked by them, and after the so-called “War on Terror” started, it was an excuse for them to kill hit two birds with an arrow – to remove their political enemies who are just giving facts to the public- journalists, writers…
It wasn’t only us- other journalists and scholars have been arrested. So the real reason behind our arrest was that- they had eyes on us because of our writing. After they banned our publication- our magazines- we were writing independently in different magazines and dailies of Pakistan, and they didn’t like the idea. So they arrested us- though we had no seat in the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and we had nothing to do with the militant activities. But we were really depicting the sorrows of the Muslim Ummah (nation), and what was going on in Afghanistan and what was going against the Islamic…and the civilian killing and war crimes in Afghanistan. When the war started, my brother was writing, I was writing, we were publicly talking against the war in Afghanistan, and that was the reason we were arrested. Also, our political enemies in Peshawar (who were close to the ISI) didn’t like the idea, so they were also working against us. So we were arrested and sent to Guantanamo as suspicious terrorists
CP: I think one of the things I’m not going to go through is your time in Bagram and Guantanamo- your book already details this, and insha’Allah (God willing) it will come out in various languages soon, so people can read that for themselves. But one of the things I wanted to ask you is: obviously there’s been something quite unprecedented in the US, which is that there’s a black president who has come to power, and also that there seems to be a change of policy within his administration- that he has said quite publicly that he will close Guantanamo. What ar
e your feelings- what do you understand by his statement that he wants to close Guantanamo down?
BZ: I think he should, and it should have been done before, and if he’s doing it that’s a good sign and we hope he changes other policies apart from Guantanamo. Guantanamo gaol is a completely illegal detention centre- people have suffered- we have been in Guantanamo for three and a half years, and other brothers have come out recently who’ve been seven years- since the beginning of the war. And it’s completely illegal and cruel- if you put someone in detention for seven years or five years or four years, and eventually you tell them they’re innocent. So they’re punishing people without any proof.
Actually it’s sad; the idea here with us in the legal system in Pakistan and everywhere, is that a person is innocent until he’s proven to be guilty. But in the US system, it’s reversed- a person is guilty until he proves himself to be innocent. And there’s no legal system- the so-called military tribunals have not done justice, and the lawyers were Americans, the judges were Americans, and now they are trying to run away. Guantanamo is actually just a place where they run away from their own legal system- the American legal system, so people in detention in Guantanamo have no access to American (civilian) courts. And if they close it, it will be a good sign, but he hope Obama brings more changes in policies regarding Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Muslim Ummah. So we hope they won’t be able to do what they want with us
CP: He’s already promised that he’s going to take troops out of Iraq and ‘surge’ the number of troops in Afghanistan. Do you think this policy is going to help them win their war in Afghanistan?
BZ: I don’t think so- I think they should negotiate with the Muslim Ummah- to Afghanistan, to Taliban- even Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. And bringing forces will create more problems- I think that’s not the solution
CP: Generally, in terms of Pakistan’s role in the “War on Terror”, unfortunately you have a situation right now where there’s a lot of civil conflict going on- many people are dying in Waziristan, you have the Americans who are attacking the country. At the same time that America is claiming that Pakistan is one of its closest allies, it’s also striking within the country itself. How do you see Pakistan’s role within the “War on Terror” within these two administrations- of Obama and Zardari? How do you see the situation, and also what would your suggestions be in terms of trying to help?
BZ: Actually, Pakistan’s role in this war- this so-called “War against Terror”, has been negative. The problem is that the Pakistani government is helpless in front of the security agencies, like the ISI and army in general, and they’re playing a double game- that’s what’s going on. From one side, they’re telling the world and their population that they’re allies in the “War on Terror”, and from the other side they have political interests in the Taliban- not religious. And they’ve been arresting people and handing them over to the Americans- they’ve done it in the past. I think they should have a clear policy- if the double game that is going on will create more problems in Pakistan because Mujahideen have also been divided- there have been pro-Pakistani Mujahideen- the local Pakistani Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban, and there has been enmity. The enmity- the Pakistani Taliban are vengeful against what Pakistan has done in the past seven years. So they’re not clear, and I think they won’t be able to carry on this double game- they have agents amongst the Taliban are working for…they’re serving their agents and arresting the real Taliban, who have nothing to do with Pakistani security agencies. So they’re in trouble because of the double game they’re playing- they should have clear policies.
They should have been impartial in this war- let the Afghans and Americans- if they’re killing Taliban, but they have helped, they have sold people, they have financial interests- they’re selling people for money. They’re not doing it for the American cause, they have agents amongst the Taliban and they’re supporting part of it- they’re not doing it for the cause of religion, for the cause of Islam. So the double game they are playing is not very clear and they won’t be able to carry it on. The policy of not interfering in Afghan politics is good for Pakistan, I think. And right now, I believe whatever they’re saying in the media- targeted killing in the tribal areas is not good…it’s not true, because Indian meetings with America and with Coalition forces, they are receiving money for the high-value targets. They’re sending their spies to the tribal area, and they’re doing it just for money, and that’s not a good policy- they will bring more destructions and there will be a bigger gap between the tribal people, Pakistani people and Pakistani government. Ever day the distance is becoming bigger, so they should think what people want- what Pakistani Muslims and public want…People in Jamia Hafsa, they were not killers- they were just demonstrating and demanding the enforcement of Shariah in this country, but they (the Pakistani government) have killed around 1500 of our brothers and sisters and innocent people. So they’re killing their own people, and it’s not their own war- they’re doing it for external interests, as well as financial interests. And the game is going against them because the insurgency is getting stronger and stronger every day…in Bauajur and Swat. I think they should also change their policy- they should be true and honest to the people of Pakistan, and they should not lie
CP: You talked a lot about the agencies and one of the things that we know that we about the agencies is there is a big problem with disappearances in Pakistan. Could you elaborate a bit more of how these disappearances take place, why they take place, and just saying what the impact has been on Pakistan?
BZ: As I told you, it’s just going on, and the disappearances are just something illegal- they’re arresting people and they disappear, and even though the chief justice has worked and he has lost his position and no one can help- the people of Pakistan are helpless, everybody living here is helpless. And the reason is agitation and trouble- that’s why the insurgency is getting stronger- because of the disappearances, and abuses of human rights, and bombings and civilian deaths
CP: Particularly, one case you should know of is Aafia Siddiqui and her three children. There’s been worldwide outrage- amongst Muslims- regarding this case. But do we know of many other women and children who are being detained in similar ways?
BZ: We haven’t seen it with our own eyes, but there were clues to the detention of females in Kandahar, Bagram and Guantanamo. Brothers have seen in some hospitals papers that…there were questions asking females- when they were arrested…
CP: In Guantanamo?
BZ: In Guantanamo, (asking) was she arrested with her husband, was she pregnant, and things like this. There was a camp called Iguana Camp- there were different camps in Guantanamo. There was a camp call
ed Iguana Camp, where they were putting teenagers- most of them were under eighteen, and a number of it. And they said that later on they were released. And then that camp was used later on- other detainees were taken to that camp. And Aafia Siddiqui was in Bagram- some of the other detainees saw her- and she was crying and she was in trouble and she was in the same shackles and chains as the men were. Some Arab brothers- their wives were arrested and they don’t know where they are, and one of the Arab brothers…I don’t remember his name- my brother knows- he said his wife was arrested and taken to Kandahar, and her head was shaved and she was shown to her husband, and they were threatening him that if he lies about the details they wanted, they would rape her in front of him. But I personally haven’t seen anything- they have been committing atrocities andthe world should do something against it. We should find defence…there have been brothers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries…
CP: JazakAllah khair for the time you’ve given us; one last question or maybe some last thoughts: do you have any message that you’d like to share with the public- regarding all of these issues, regarding all of your experiences- just some thoughts?
BZ: I appreciate your efforts- those of the organisation Cageprisoners, and the brothers in the UK and elsewhere- where there have been some freedom; where people can talk and people can come to gatherings…And it should be carried out, and there should be legal help- a legal organisation should be created, who can help and who can travel and who can talk to people in different countries; to have legal access and meet their families. Right now, my brother is in gaol- the Pakistani legal system cannot help, and I don’t have any other way to get my brother out of prison…out of his illegal detention completely.
CP: JazakAllah khair for your time
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)