ACLU Report Highlights
Plight of Pakistani Deportees
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Francisco: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a
leading civil rights organization, in a special report highlights
the plight of five Pakistanis who were deported from the
US after they were caught in a government dragnet that swept
up hundreds of Muslims indiscriminately after 9/11.
The ACLU report documents the stories of five Pakistanis
- Ansar Mahmood, Anser Mehmood, Khurram Altaf, Naeem Sheikh
and Noor Hussain Raza – and six Arabs who were deported
after long detention in harsh conditions although they were
not charged with any crimes related to terrorism.
With the help of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, the
ACLU located some of the deportees and went to Pakistan
to hear their stories.
After nearly three years in detention, Ansar Mahmood, 24,
was deported to Pakistan on August 12, 2004. He was arrested
few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, for taking pictures of
a water reservoir in New York. No terror-related charges
were ever filed against Mahmood. But authorities discovered
that he signed documents for a Pakistani couple with expired
Anser Mahmood with his wife and sons in Karachi
’s supporters protest outside Batavia Federal
Anser Mehmood, 44, was one of more than l,100 Muslim immigrants
taken into custody by the US authorities in the days and
weeks immediately following the attacks of September 11,
2001. He was deported to Pakistan in May 2002, after eight
months in prison.
Khurram Altaf, 36, a taxpaying US resident for 18 years,
was detained and deported to Pakistan without ever seeing
a judge. He was forced to leave behind his 9-year-old daughter
Anza, a US citizen who needs medical care not available
in Pakistan. He was deported in mid-2002. His wife and two
other children joined him a year later in Rawalpindi.
Noor Hussain Raza, 63, was detained for a period of thirty-eight
days from December 19, 2001 to January 26, 2002. He was
never brought before a judge.
Naeem Sheikh was detained for a period of one month, in
March 2002. Prior to his arrest, Sheikh lived in the United
States for almost eight years. He hoped to correct his immigration
status while he was detained, but he was deported to Pakistan
on March 31, 2002.
River Valley,New York
The ACLU said that the men were among hundreds of Muslims
who were arbitrarily and indiscriminately arrested even
though they had not engaged in criminal activity of any
sort. They languished in jail - sometimes in solitary confinement
- for weeks and sometimes months, even after it became clear
that they were innocent of any charges related to terrorism.
Many of them were deported for minor visa violations that
would have been ignored before 9/11.
On January 27, the American Civil Liberties Union, filed
an official complaint to the Nations Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention, on behalf of these Pakistanis and Arabs imprisoned
and deported from the United States. The ACLU said that
such arbitrary arrests and deportations have devastated
families and some Muslim communities. One neighborhood discussed
in the report is "Little Pakistan" in Brooklyn,
More than a third of Brooklyn’s once vibrant 100,000
Pakistani population has either been deported or has moved
voluntarily after the September 11 attacks. The report quoted
the community officials as saying that by the time INS Special
Registration for non-Immigrant Muslims ended in 2003 as
many as 45,000 had either been deported or had left voluntarily.
According to a survey done by the Council of Pakistan Organizations,
more than 30 businesses have been forced to close down in
the last three years. In some cases, their owners were part
of the exodus; in others, there simply weren’t enough
earnings to pay the rent. Store-owners who remained estimate
that their business is down by 30 to 40 percent.
The government’s unlawful policies had profound effects
not only on the people who were unlawfully imprisoned but
also on their families and communities, the ACLU said, adding
that families were torn apart, children separated from fathers,
wives separated from husbands, parents separated from sons.
“The United States government correctly condemns other
countries when they violate the rights enshrined in the
Universal Declaration; however, we have to be equally vigilant
in making sure that those rights are not violated here at
home,” the ACLU concluded.