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"India airlifting prisoners from Afghanistan"

Like dumb, driven cattle: 
Afghan prisoners of war in Mazar-i-Sharif

Pakistani, Kashmiri and Arab prisoners presently incarcerated in Afghanistan prisons are being allegedly airlifted by India, Pakistani newspapers have reported. Quoting diplomatic sources, the reports said that India has airlifted a third group of Pakistani, Kashmiri and Arab prisoners from Afghanistan's capital city Kabul on July 16 by a special aircraft.

Indian newspapers have so far refrained from publishing the reports, although the prominent daily The Times of India, July 29, carried excerpts from a Pakistani newspaper The Frontier Post.

Reports said that on earlier occasions two batches of prisoners were respectively transferred to India from Afghanistan.

The first batch of prisoners to be taken to India comprised 110 Pakistanis, who were taken into custody after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan's popular daily Dawn (December 20, 2001) quoting two top Pakistani officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said that "Afghanistan's northern alliance handed over 110 detained Pakistani Muslim militants to India and that Afghanistan then airlifted them to New Delhi for interrogation."

According to Pakistani officials, India sent an aircraft to Afghanistan's Bagram air base, 40 kilometers north of Kabul, on December 5 to pick up the Pakistanis, who had been detained by the anti-Taliban northern alliance. Before picking the prisoners, the Indian Air Force planes flew over the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan, reports said. The sources also said that the reported airlifting took place when the conference on future political structure of Afghanistan was being held at Bonn in Germany.

In June, 30 Pakistani prisoners in Afghanistan along with some Arabs were shifted to India from northern Afghanistan town of Kunduz via Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe. Two helicopters were sent for the purpose.

Officials at India's Defence Ministry and at its air force have said that they had no information on the accusation, according to the reports.

India has maintained good and steady relations all along with the leaders of Northern Alliance. It has been quite close to them during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and lent them full moral and material support to fight the Taliban regime. Even after the fall of the Taliban, India is continuing with its support and is trying to make its political presence felt in Afghanistan, now being ruled by Hamid Karzai of Northern Alliance.

Pakistani human and civil rights activists have raised deep concern over India's reported actions. Ansar Burney, noted human and civil rights activist, expressed apprehension and said that India would use the prisoners in a manner so as to defame Pakistan in the eyes of the world, even when it would not be involved in disruptive activities inside India.

Mr Burney said, "I fear that India would present the prisoners as saboteurs by creating incidents of violence in its own country and would attempt to portray Pakistan as agent provocateur. After committing the acts, they would release the photographs of these prisoners to the international media for their so-called involvement in various self-created terrorist activities and incidents of violence in India and in its part of Jammu and Kashmir, aimed at giving credibility to their claims that Pakistan is a terrorist state."

Northern Alliance may have tried to return its due to India for its continued and unstinted support. The leaders in the northern alliance harbour deep aversion for Pakistan, and therefore their cooperation with Indians. 

But all along, the entire episode raises some disconcerting questions. Why should India be interested in getting some Pakistani prisoners from Afghanistan? Why should the Afghan captors hand them over to India and not Pakistan? What are the likely adverse consequences and implications for Pakistan? Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, noted Pakistani columnist, asked in the News, a reputed Pakistani newspaper. 

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