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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Pakistanis tell of US prison horror
Riots in Karachi in protest at US-led strikes on Afghanistan
Observers say anti-US feeling is likely to rise

Pakistanis repatriated in recent days say they have suffered months of "degradation" and "abuse" in prisons across the United States.


I was shackled and handcuffed - completely bound - and questioned as if I were an associate of Osama Bin Laden

Mufeed Khan
Los Angeles resident
Some 131 Pakistanis, many who had lived in the US for years, were deported and flown home two days ago - most charged by US immigration with overstaying their welcome and having invalid documents.

All were detained in the months after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington last year.

The deportees arrived in Islamabad late on Thursday aboard a chartered Portuguese airliner, and were allowed to go to their homes.


Pakistan is co-operating with America... and America in return is treating Pakistanis as terrorists

Jahanzeb Zulfikar
Iowa resident
They accuse the US of forcibly sending them back following 11 September, and say the treatment meted out to them in prisons and in detention was inhuman and unjust.

"I was treated as a terrorist. I was psychologically tortured in the prison," 35-year-old Mufeed Khan told the BBC on Saturday.

"I was shackled and handcuffed - completely bound - and questioned as if I were an associate of Osama Bin Laden."

Dream sours

Mr Khan had lived in America for 11 years and ran a small business in Los Angeles before his detention in February this year.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft
US attorney-general has led crackdown
"For me America was the dreamland. I used to think that I was lucky to live in a liberal and democratic country.

But the dreamland became hell for me after 11 September," he says. "Even if I was not carrying valid documents to stay there, I did not deserve such treatment.

"I was treated badly because I am a Muslim.

"Carrying a Muslim name should not be a crime. Not every Muslim is an extremist or a terrorist."

'Injustice'

Like Mr Khan most of the deportees complained of ill treatment by the US authorities.


Before 11 September we were Pakistani Americans - now we have become aliens who want to destroy America

Arshad Mehmood
Chicago resident
Jahanzeb Zulfikar, 28, is one of them. He had been detained since April.

He says he went to the US on a student visa when he was just 17 years old, and was living in Iowa.

"I never thought I would be put through such mental torture. My rights were abused, my dignity violated and self-respect insulted and compromised in the detention centre," Mr Zulfikar told the BBC.

"Pakistan is co-operating with America in its fight against terrorists - and America in return is treating Pakistanis as terrorists.

"Isn't this injustice?"

Tough laws

In the aftermath of 11 September, strict legislation regarding immigration was introduced in the US.

It gave sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies to detain people without charge.

Many, even within the US, say the measures are "draconian".

Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are still living in America.

Since the 1980s, going to America has been a dream for many teenagers who want to make their fortunes in the United States.

The exodus continued until recently. Many families have moved in their entirety, and are living there illegally.

'Friend of Osama'

But those who have been deported say the US authorities want to demoralise and discourage Pakistanis from staying in America.


Pakistan has been integral to the coalition against terror. This will influence public opinion

Mohammad Riaz,
analyst
Arshad Mehmood, who lived in Chicago for almost a decade, has now been sent back.

"For them (the American authorities) every Pakistani is now an activist of the Taleban or a friend of Osama. They do not want us to live over there.

"Before 11 September we were Pakistani Americans - now we have become aliens who want to destroy America," Mehmood says.

"They have deported me and allowed my wife and two children to stay in America.

"Obviously we cannot live our lives like this. Soon my wife and children are coming to Pakistan," he says.

'Betrayed'

Pakistani officials say they are expecting more Pakistani deportees from America.

The families and friends of those detained or deported are embittered by these accounts.

There already exists anti-American sentiment in certain elements of society.

Observers believe these accounts will further spur such feelings, even among those who were not initially hostile.

"Most of these people are educated. They moved there for better economic opportunities," says one analyst, Mohammad Riaz. "Now people hear of them being treated as criminals.

"They will feel betrayed, since Pakistan has been integral to the coalition against terror. This will influence public opinion."


Key stories

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Background

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See also:

22 Jul 02 | Americas
09 Apr 02 | Americas
05 Jun 02 | Americas
17 May 02 | Americas
16 May 02 | Americas
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