Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
We would like to bring to your notice the recent Police Action against innocent Afghan Refugees at Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
About a month ago, some unknown assailants attacked a Police Party at Dhok Saidan, Rawalpindi, in which two policemen died and one was injured. The injured policemen stated that the assailants looked like Afghan Refugees.
Thereafter, the Rawalpindi and Islamabad Police launched a campaign against Afghan Refugees.
The Afghan Refugees were asked by the Police to produce a Passport with a valid Pakistani Visa, if they could not do so, they would be arrested. Almost none of the Afghan Refugees in Pakistan have a valid Pakistani Visa, therefore almost every Afghan in Rawalpindi and Islamabad area was arrested.
Also the police did not accept any other document like Refugee Card (Shanakati Pass), Camp Documents, Ration Card or UNHCR documents as valid documents and Afghans Refugees in possession of such valid documents were also arrested. This is all the more ironic as at present, the Pakistan Government is not issuing any visas to Afghan Nationals.
In the first four days alone 2000 refugees were arrested in Rawalpindi, mainly from Subzimandi, Kachiabadi, Khataria Market and Kahayabani-e-Sir Syed. 470 Afghan Refugees were arrested by the Siala Police in a single day. Of these about 1200 were sent to the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The remaining were released by the Police after taking bribes.
The Rawalpindi and Islamabad Police also raided the houses of Afghan Refugees and in addition to arresting the refugees the police also took away all the belongings of the refugees. The Rawalpindi and Islamabad Police have also arrested a large number of Afghan Refugee Children (under the age of 15 years) for not having valid documents. Children are not required by law to possess or carry valid documents of any kind.
One Afghan Refugee had taken his seriously ill sister to Islamabad for treatment, where she was admitted to a hospital, the brother came out to buy some medicines, where he was arrested. His plea that his sister was in hospital and there was no one else to take care of her, fell on deaf ears and he was sent to the Adiala Jail. His sister was discovered in the hospital by her other relatives who started to look for them after a few days. In at least one instance, Islamabad Police opened fire on an Afghan Refugee who tried to flee on seeing a police party.
The Rawalpindi and Islamabad Police have also detained a number of Afghan Refugee Women on the charges of having no valid documents, most of them have not been sent to prison except six women who are presently detained at the Adiala Jail.
The Police action has greatly increased the police harassment against the Afghan Refugees. At the moment it is impossible for an Afghan Refugee to walk in Rawalpindi and Islamabad without being robbed by the police or if they have no money to be arrested and sent to prison.
At present there are between three thousand to four thousand (3000 to 4000) innocent Afghan Refugees detained at the Adiala Jail. Of these 6 are women and more then 200 are children.
The conditions of the Afghan Refugees at the Adial Jail is particularly bad. More than a hundred detainees are confined in barracks that generally house only 60 inmates. The Afghan Refugees are given sub-standard food and in lesser quantity as compared to the Pakistani inmates. Most importantly, inviolation of all laws, everyday from 6 am to 2 pm all the Afghan Detainees are put to forced labour (BEGGAR). Under the law only convicts awarded Rigorous imprisonment can be put to labour, no one else. The Jail Staff also take all the money from the prisoners that they receive from visitors etc.
The condition of the children (minor) detainees is particularly pathetic. The children are being kept in the same barracks as the adult detainees. .
The courts are also very slow in processing the cases of the Afghan Refugees. The Courts at Rawalpindi do not accept bail bonds submitted by Afghan Refugees.
Sir, as you are well aware, when the Afghan Refugees first arrived in Pakistan, Pakistan agreed to treat all them as Refugees. Only the head of the family was issued Shankati Passes and only those living at the camps were given Camp Documents. Now that the end of the Afghan Crisis is in sight and all Afghans are looking forward to return to their homeland with dignity and pride and have nothing but goodwill for their Pakistani hosts, it is very unfortunate that campaigns like these are allowed against innocent Afghan Refugees. In the interest of justice and friendly relations between the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) appeals to your goodself to order/direct :
1. The immediate release of all innocent Afghan Refugees (those not involved in any criminal cases) presently being detained at Adila Jail and other prisons in the country.
2. The immediately release of all innocent Afghan Refugee Women and children detained at various prisons in the country.
3. The immediate suspension of the harassment of Afghan Refugees by the Rawalpindi and Islamabad Police.
4. Innocent Afghan refugees may be detained only till such time that they can prove their identity; innocent Afghan Refugee women and children should not be detained/arrested at all.
5. The cases of Afghan Refugees pending in courts be expedited.
6. Afghan Refugee detainees should not be discriminated at the Prisons and other places of detention and should not be subjected to forced labour unless so directed by a court of law.
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
June 3, 2002
You can support our appeal by sending protest letters to the President of Pakistan, The Interior Minister or to Pakistan embassy in your country:
General Parviz Musharraf
President of Pakistan
Lt. Gen.(R) Moin-ud-din Haider
Interior Minister of Pakistan
Dr. Maleeha Lodhi
Ambassador of Pakistan to the USA
Please also send copy of your letter to the following Pakistani newspapers and news agencies:
The News International
The Frontier Post