ACLU Report Highlights Plight of Pakistani Deportees
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

San 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 visas.

Anser Mahmood with his wife and sons in Karachi

Ansar ’s supporters protest outside Batavia Federal
Detention Center

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.

Ansar Mahmood

Hudson River Valley,New York

Khurram Altaf

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, New York.
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.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.