Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eight Pakistanis, Tablighi Jamaat members, languishing in Eritrean jail since 1993 – The Express Tribune

The families of eight members of a Tablighi Jamaat that went missing in Eritrea in 1993 have urged the government and human rights bodies to help in their release from an Eritrean prison.
Tablighi Jamaat, an apolitical reformist religious organisation working at grassroot level sends jamaats or preaching missions across the world. In Pakistan its headquarters are in Raiwind near Lahore. The movements of the jamaats are called tashkeel or formation and are documented.
The eight missing Pakistanis from Shabqadar, Mohmand Agency and Peshawar went on a preaching mission to Africa on June 16, 1993. According to files in Tablighi Markaz (centre), their tashkeel was Jamaat No 49 which included, Mian Muhammad as their amir or leader, Itbar Khan, Mirza Khan, Hunar Sher, Sher Mohammad, Hafiz Saeed, Naushad Khan and Habibullah. The jamaat went first to Addis Ababa then Djibouti and from there they entered Eritrea and reached Asmara, the Eritrean capital.
In his letter to his sons in Peshawar, Mian Muhammad, the leader of the jamaat, wrote that they reached Asmara and were staying at Khalid bin Walid Mosque. They were last heard of on November 13, 1993.
Eretria had gained independence in 1993 after a bloody struggle with Ethiopia and mass scale persecution of Muslims was going on in that country at that time.
“We tried hard to approach our government for their release, but we were told that Pakistan has no diplomatic relations with Eritrea, (so) we failed,” Malik Said, son of one of the missing persons Mirza Khan, told The Express Tribune.
The first appeal for intervention was made when Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister and Farooq Leghari the president, according to a copy of the application made available to The Express Tribune.
Sher Muhammad’s son Bahram Khan said that they are hoping human rights activist Ansar Burney would help them as he had helped in the release of Pakistanis from Somali pirates.
The family members of the missing jamaat said that in a letter written in 1998, a human rights activist Dastagher Nori of the Arab Study Society had told Dr Malik Muhammad Shah that he had visited the Tablighi Jamaat detainees in jail.
According to a letter from international human rights information centre Jerusalem, these Pakistanis were serving a life sentence in prison and were victims of human rights violations rife in Eritrea.
In this regard, a letter was also sent from the Pakistani embassy in Jeddah to the foreign office in Islamabad, which forwarded the letter to the Africa desk for further action. Qari Arshad, son of detained Pakistani Hunar Sher said he had met the Director General Africa desk in Islamabad and urged him to use his office for the release of Pakistanis languishing in the Eritrean jail.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2012.

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