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Pakistan: Whether Pakistani citizens who were arrested in Toronto by Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials in August 2003 under "Project Thread" and who were deported to Pakistan in December 2003, held a press conference in Islamabad where they announced their intention to sue the government of Canada; whether details of their treatment in Canada are known to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, including its conclusion in this regard; whether these citizens have filed an official complaint against the government of Canada; whether the government of Pakistan has filed an official diplomatic complaint against the government of Canada; whether these deported individuals were investigated by Pakistani officials for possible links to terrorist organizations upon their return to Pakistan, including details of their treatment upon their return

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 3 March 2004
Citation / Document Symbol PAK42394.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan: Whether Pakistani citizens who were arrested in Toronto by Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials in August 2003 under "Project Thread" and who were deported to Pakistan in December 2003, held a press conference in Islamabad where they announced their intention to sue the government of Canada; whether details of their treatment in Canada are known to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, including its conclusion in this regard; whether these citizens have filed an official complaint against the government of Canada; whether the government of Pakistan has filed an official diplomatic complaint against the government of Canada; whether these deported individuals were investigated by Pakistani officials for possible links to terrorist organizations upon their return to Pakistan, including details of their treatment upon their return, 3 March 2004, PAK42394.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c46e.html [accessed 17 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BBC reported in December 2003 that five Pakistani students who were deported from Canada "for suspected al-Qaeda links" held a news conference in Islamabad about their treatment following their arrest in Toronto, adding that they were in the process of consulting lawyers in Pakistan "about suing the Canadian authorities for wrongful confinement, and for labelling them suspected terrorists" (9 Dec. 2003). In February 2004, The Toronto Star indicated that Kashif Siddique-one of the deported-had in December 2003 contacted his uncle, Afzaal Inqalabi, who is also a human rights activist and who "organized a press conference on behalf of all of the deported students, demanding the Canadian government compensate them for their losses and issue an apology" (8 Feb. 2004). The article however, does not indicate where the press conference was held.

In correspondence to the Research Directorate, a Lahore-based human rights lawyer confirmed that five of the deported Pakistani citizens, along with members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) "did hold a press conference in Islamabad on 9 December 2003 - since 10 December is the International Human Rights day," adding that she herself was present (28 Feb. 2004).

According to BBC, Asma Jehangir, a "[p]rominent human rights campaigner," said that "after thorough investigations, Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission had come to the conclusion that the deportees had been unfairly stigmatised and treated" (9 Dec. 2003). The Lahore-based human rights lawyer quoted above, said that

[p]rior to the press conference a team of HRCP activists, headed by myself, carried out an extensive fact-finding on the issue. We were horrified at the treatment meted out to the deported students on suspicion of being terrorists. We counter-checked the version of the deportees with individuals in Toronto. The allegations of reasonable suspicion certainly did not warrant the ... negative publicity [that] was given to the deportees (Lawyer 28 Feb. 2004).

However, in correspondence to the Research Directorate, the Joint Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that the HRCP "has not concluded that [the] deportees were stigmatised or victimised," adding that while the HRCP "has been concerned over the spate of deportations from various countries, including the US and Canada, as well as the racism that sometimes appears to underlie such decisions on mass deportations," the HRCP also believes that "each case must be decided on its own merits" (25 Feb. 2004).

The Toronto Star (8 Feb. 2004) and the National Post (7 Feb. 2004) both reported that the deported Pakistan citizens are consulting lawyers about filing an official complaint against the government of Canada. Similarly, the Lahore-based human rights lawyer indicated that

[a]ccording to my information, they are consulting lawyers in Canada. However, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has officially written to the Chief Commission[er], Canadian Human Rights Commission. All efforts on legal remedies are (I am told) confidential (28 Feb. 2004).

The Joint Director of HRCP indicated that the HRCP is not aware of whether the government of Pakistan has filed an official complaint against the government of Canada (25 Feb. 2004). Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, has reportedly met with the deportees on several occasions where he has encouraged them to pursue their case in the Canadian courts, stating that "'[w]e have very good relations right now with Canada. We don't want to disturb that'" (The Toronto Star 8 Feb. 2004). According to the Lahore-based human rights lawyer,

[t]here has been a strong demand by the press and human rights organization[s] for the Government of Pakistan to make an official complaint to the government of Canada. The Foreign Minister was reported in the press as promising "to look into the matter". There is no way of confirming of any official complaint or otherwise (28 Feb. 2004).

Several news reports indicated that upon their arrival in Pakistan, all of the deportees were detained by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), some of whom were locked in "an airless room" for 16 hours (ibid.; National Post 18 Nov. 2003; ibid. 7 Feb. 2004). According to The Toronto Star, one of the deportees had been "shake[n] ... down," fingerprinted and his passport seized during the 16-hour detention (8 Feb. 2004), while others were, according to the National Post, released only after signing a US$900 bond agreeing to appear for further questioning" (7 Feb. 2004). The Lahore-based human rights lawyer said that upon arrival in Pakistan, the deportees were "debriefed" and found to be "innocent" (28 Feb. 2004). Five of the deportees were detained and interrogated by the FIA for 15 hours and

... their passports were held for several weeks. All government agencies have informally, but openly informed the Human Rights Commission members that the deportees have no link to any Islamist or terrorist organization (Lawyer 28 Feb. 2004).

The HRCP added the following information:

In most cases, the deportees are able to pass through immigration and customs as is the case with ordinary Pakistani citizens when they arrive. Only if anyone with a known terrorist/criminal history is among the deportees, would they face questioning. Officials of the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) are often present at the airport as deportees arrive, and sometimes carry out brief, random questioning. However, further interrogation would take place only if there is a reason. Otherwise the deportees are treated as Pakistani citizens (25 Feb. 2004).

With regards to the overall treatment of the Pakistani citizens that were deported under "Project Thread," The Toronto Star said that due to the stigma attached to being branded as a suspected terrorist, they have been unable to find employment, they are reluctant to leave their homes and some of them have doubts about the possibility of ever getting married (8 Feb. 2004). While out for a jog, one of the deportees, Mohammad Khalid Jahangir, was attacked by a group of men who "hit him with sticks, kicked him and called him a terrorist" (The Toronto Star 8 Feb. 2004, see also National Post 7 Feb. 2004). Following this incident, Jahangir's new vehicle was stolen while he was visiting a friend (ibid.). One of the deportees reportedly received death threats over the telephone (National Post 18 Nov. 2003). While the Joint Director of HRCP indicated that there is "only limited social stigma" attached to being a deportee (25 Feb. 2004), Guelph Mercury reported that Pakistan is a "military dictatorship that is particularly unfriendly to anyone tainted with the Al Qaeda" (29 Oct. 2003).

The Lahore-based human rights lawyer added the following information:

[upon their] return, the deportees were given a veiled threat to stay silent and avoid any embarrassment to the relationship between the governments of Pakistan and Canada. After 3 weeks they broke their silence ... because the human rights organizations got wind of the case through the media and made inquiries, ... because their silence would make them vulnerable in the hands of very corrupt intelligence agencies of Pakistan who could misuse them, and ... because they were looked upon with great suspicion as it is hard to believe that a country like Canada, with a solid record of upholding human rights would discriminate in this fashion. ... According to my information the 10 deportees have still not been able to find a job and have to offer constant explanations about their alleged links to terrorism. Their names also appeared in the local media when they were arrested. The possibility of persecution by intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out and this precisely is the reason for encouraging the deportees to go public and to co-operate with the fact-finding team of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (28 Feb. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

BBC. 9 December 2003. Zaffar Abbas. "Pakistanis Threaten to Sue Canada." [Accessed 23 Feb. 2004]

Guelph Mercury. 29 October 2003. Thomas Walkom. "Time to Make Amends." (Dialog)

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). 25 February 2004. Correspondence from the Joint Director.

Lawyer, Lahore. 28 February 2004. Correspondence.

National Post. 7 February 2004. Stewart Bell. "'We Are Still Trying to Hide.'"

_____. 18 November 2003. Nancy Carr. "Last Terrorist Suspect Freed, Deported to Pakistan: Unproven Suspicions." (Dialog)

The Toronto Star. 8 February 2004. Sonia Verma. "Lahore, Pakistan-Kashif Siddique Slips Around Town Like a Shadow of His Former Self, Avoiding Crowds and Phone Conversations Because of a Creepy Feeling He's Being Watched."

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Dawn [Karachi], European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Government of the Islmaic Republic of Pakistan (links are non-operational), Human Rights Watch (HRW), United States Committee for Refugees (USCR).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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