US Supreme Court nixes CIA contractors’ testimony on Guantanamo detainee arrested in Pakistan

The sun sets on the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., on January 26, 2022. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 04 March 2022
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US Supreme Court nixes CIA contractors’ testimony on Guantanamo detainee arrested in Pakistan

  • Suspected Al-Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah is one of 39 remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was subjected to waterboarding
  • Abu Zubaydah, who is Palestinian, was captured in 2002 in Pakistan and has been held by the United States since without charges

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that due to national security concerns two former CIA contractors cannot be questioned in a Polish investigation into the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected high-ranking Al-Qaeda figure who was repeatedly subjected to a type of torture called waterboarding.
The justices ruled 6-3 that Central Intelligence Agency contractors James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen cannot be subpoenaed under a US law that lets federal courts enforce a request for testimony or other evidence for a foreign legal proceeding. Abu Zubaydah, 50, is one of 39 remaining detainees at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The court found that the government could assert what is called the “state-secrets privilege” to prevent the contractors from being questioned in the Polish criminal investigation about their role in interrogating Abu Zubaydah because it would jeopardize US national security.
Poland is believed to be the location of a “black site” where the CIA used harsh interrogation techniques against him. Abu Zubaydah lost an eye and underwent waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning — 83 times in a single month while held by the CIA, according to US government documents.
The contractors’ testimony “would be tantamount to a disclosure from the CIA itself,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the ruling.
“For these reasons, we conclude that in this case the state secrets privilege applies to the existence (or nonexistence) of a CIA facility in Poland,” Breyer added.
The justices were divided on what exactly should happen, with six justices saying Abu Zubaydah’s request should be dismissed. Conservative Neil Gorsuch and liberals Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the case should be sent back to lower courts.
Gorsuch wrote a strongly worded dissenting opinion joined by Sotomayor saying that much of what the government claims to be a state secret is already widely known.
“There comes a point where we should not be ignorant as judges of what we know to be true as citizens,” Gorsuch wrote.
“Ending this suit may shield the government from some further modest measure of embarrassment. But respectfully, we should not pretend it will safeguard any secret,” Gorsuch added.
Abu Zubaydah, who is Palestinian, was captured in 2002 in Pakistan and has been held by the United States since then without charges. He has spent more than 15 years detained at Guantanamo.
David Klein, Abu Zubaydah’s lawyer, said that although the court ruled against his client, it left the door open to him filing an amended request that would not require disclosure of the site’s location. That means “there is a pathway for him to finally uncover the truth about what happened to him at the hands of the CIA during a critical part of his detention,” Klein added.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
At the case’s October oral arguments, some justices asked why the government would not let Abu Zubaydah himself be questioned. The Justice Department later told the court it would agree to Abu Zubaydah sending a declaration that could be used in the Polish investigation, although it would have to be reviewed first. Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers called that approach unacceptable.
Abu Zubaydah was “an associate and longtime terrorist ally of Osama bin Laden,” the leader of the Al-Qaeda Islamist militant group killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011, according to a Justice Department filing.
The justices have turned away multiple cases brought by Guantanamo detainees challenging their confinement. Abu Zubaydah’s own case has been pending in lower courts for more than a decade.
The US government has disclosed that Abu Zubaydah was held overseas and interrogated using “enhanced interrogation techniques” but has not revealed locations. The European Court of Human Rights determined that Abu Zubaydah was held in Poland in 2002 and 2003.
The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that Mitchell and Jessen could be subpoenaed, prompting the Justice Department to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Details of CIA activities were confirmed in a 2014 US Senate report that concluded that the interrogation techniques were more brutal than originally disclosed and that the agency misled the White House and public about its torture of detainees captured overseas after Al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.


Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 

Updated 18 June 2024
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Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 

  • Maulana Mirza Jan of Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl party was shot by unidentified gunmen last Thursday
  • North Waziristan’s district administrator confirmed three bodies were found in the Mir Ali area on Tuesday morning

PESHAWAR: The senior leader of a prominent religious party succumbed to his wounds while three others were found dead in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, officials confirmed a day after the Pakistani Taliban announced a temporary ceasefire with the federal government. 

Maulana Mirza Jan, the president of the Wana chapter of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl (JUI-F) party, was shot by unidentified persons last Thursday. A close aide of the JUI-F party’s chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Jan was receiving treatment at a hospital in Wana since then. 

Separately, North Waziristan’s district administrator confirmed three bodies were found in the Mir Ali area on Tuesday morning, adding that they had been killed by “unknown miscreants.”

“A strong voice of the tribal areas who also fought for them at every front, president of the JUI-F’s Wana chapter who was injured a few days earlier in a firing incident, Maulana Mirza Jan, has passed away after succumbing to his wounds,” the JUI-F said in a statement. 

Jan’s funeral prayers would be offered in Wana on Wednesday, June 19 at 09:00 a.m., the party added.

The development takes place a day after the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced a three-day ceasefire with the government in Islamabad from June 17-19 for Eid Al-Adha. 

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. They have been emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.

In recent months, the Pakistani Taliban have claimed a number of attacks and are suspected by officials in several others, mainly in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province that borders Afghanistan.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in militant violence in its two western provinces, KP and Balochistan, since the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile, months-long truce with the government in November 2022.

Pakistan says Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are giving shelter to TTP fighters across the unruly border. The Afghan Taliban government insists it doesn’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil for violence in any country.


On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 

Updated 18 June 2024
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On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 

  • After months of record inflation, many Pakistanis will be struggling to afford animals at prices starting from around $350
  • But expensive animals whose price can go beyond $10,000 are the ultimate symbol of social prestige and generosity 

KARACHI: For most of the year, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood remains serene, a peaceful urban retreat of high-rise residential apartments and markets. 

But as Eid Al-Adha approaches, the quiet streets start bustling with activity as makeshift stalls and tents pop up, each equipped with soft bedding, special lights and fans in the service of special guests – expensive or ‘premium’ sacrificial animals. 

The prized animals, whose price can range between $3,000 and $11,000, are mostly raised on cattle farms outside the city, and moved to the Civil Lines neighborhood in the weeks ahead of Eid, giving the area a festival-like atmosphere.

Many people in Pakistan like to buy expensive sacrificial animals on Eid, as purchasing larger or more premium animals is seen as a mark of prestige and generosity. The preference for costly animals is also influenced by the desire to fulfill the religious obligation with the best possible offering.

“There is no price for passion,” Muhammad Mustafa, a student at the Institute of Business Administration whose family is associated with the cattle business, told Arab News.

“Everyone performs this [ritual] according to their budget in my opinion, so the prices of animals in our area can go above Rs2 million [$7,180] or Rs3 million [$10,770].”

These prices are sharp for Pakistan, where after months of record inflation, many will be struggling to afford even regular sheep at prices starting from around $350. But the expensive animals are also the ultimate symbol of social prestige in a country where the GDP per capita does not exceed $1,600.

“FUNFAIR”

Karachi, a city of over 20 million people, hosts the country’s largest cattle market on its outskirts, where animals from across Pakistan are put up for sale, as well as 21 other smaller bazaars.

However, what sets Civil Lines apart from other neighborhoods is not just the availability of expensive animals but also the large number of people who raise high-value breeds on farmhouses.

Mustafa is one of those who strikes deals with cattle farmers in advance, providing them with a calf, which is raised for a year or two until it becomes eligible for sacrifice, a determination based on the count of its teeth— two or more.

“It has four teeth, so we raised it for almost two years. It grabs its proper strength, catches its life, catches its round shape, so it feels attached to the heart, so we people sacrifice it,” he said as he gestured toward his cow that neighbors and friends had come to call “Black Beauty” and which is valued at Rs1 million ($3,588).

Connoisseurs also hire caretakers to look after the animals and provide them with customized and specially prepared feed and shelter in waterproof tents equipped with fans, cushioning and special lighting. 

Various local and international breeds of animals can be found in Civil Lines, including Sahiwal, Australian and Sibi breeds, with visitors stopping to take selfies with the beautiful cows and goats. 

“It’s about half-past midnight, and people here descend with their families after 10 o’clock and also serve their animals,” said Maaz Liaquat Abdullah, who works in the construction business. “The whole place becomes a funfair,.”

Abdul Rauf Shivani, a banker, attributed the popularity of high-priced animals in Civil Lines to the community’s “deep pockets.”

“What people do is basically they try to bring in the animals for sacrifice and they also try to give comfort to animals and make sure that they are actually in a very safe area,” Shivani added.

And while adults in the area typically buy expensive cows, children often opt to raise goats. 

One such kid was Mohammad Yahya, 6, who said he had raised his male goat at a farmhouse in Mirpur Khas in Sindh and affectionately called him Chanchanu.

“He runs very fast, he doesn’t come under control,” Yahya said as he placed some grass in front of his goat.

Around him, children led their animals along the streets.

“Most of the population living here is from the Memon community,” said Abdullah, the construction business professional, “who have the love for animals in their genes, especially the love for sacrificial animals.”


Under-fire Babar Azam says PCB to take final decision on Pakistan captaincy 

Updated 18 June 2024
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Under-fire Babar Azam says PCB to take final decision on Pakistan captaincy 

  • Cricket analysts have called upon Azam to resign following Pakistan’s poor performance at World Cup
  • Pakistan failed to qualify for second round of T20 World Cup after losing to United States, arch-rivals India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s under-fire skipper Babar Azam said this week that it was ultimately up to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to decide whether he should continue as the national squad’s captain or not, following his team’s dismal performance in the ongoing T20 World Cup. 

Cricket analysts and commentators have called on Azam to step down as skipper after Pakistan failed to qualify for the second round of the T20 World Cup 2024. 

The green shirts crashed out of the World Cup after consecutive losses to minnows United States and arch-rivals India. The United States and India ultimately ended up qualifying for the Super Eight stage of the tournament from Group A, with Pakistan notching victories only against Canada and Ireland. 

Speaking to reporters at a news conference on Monday, Azam said the PCB decided to appoint him captain after pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi’s brief stint as skipper ended this year. 

“When I go back, we will discuss all that has happened here. And if I have to leave the captaincy, I will announce it openly,” he said.

“I will not hide behind anything. Whatever happens will happen in the open. But for now, I have not thought about it. It is eventually PCB’s decision.”

Cricket commentators have blamed Azam for Pakistan’s failure to perform impressively at the mega tournament. Many have questioned his captaincy decisions while most have criticized him for choosing underperforming stars in the playing XI. 

“We win and lose as a team. You are pointing out that [I am] the captain, but I cannot play in every player’s place. There are 11 players, and each of them has a role,” Azam explained.

“That’s why they came here to play the World Cup. I think we have not been able to play well as a team. We have to settle down and accept that we didn’t play well as a team,” he added. 

Azam admitted that though the team performed well in patches, fans were right to be disappointed with them. 

“Everybody is disappointed. We are as disappointed as the fans. It is not one individual’s fault,” he said. 


Sacrifice of animals, festivities continue as Pakistan marks second day of Eid Al-Adha

Updated 18 June 2024
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Sacrifice of animals, festivities continue as Pakistan marks second day of Eid Al-Adha

  • People continue to visit relatives on second day of Eid as picnic spots see rush, says state media 
  • Pakistan’s prime minister exchanges Eid greetings with Kuwaiti counterpart, Kazakhstan president

ISLAMABAD: Muslims in Pakistan and other parts of the world on Tuesday continued sacrificing animals and taking part in festivities on the second day of Eid Al-Adha in their respective countries. 

One of the most important Islamic holidays, Eid Al-Adha is a joyous occasion on which food is a hallmark and during which devout Muslims buy and slaughter animals and share the meat with family, friends and the poor. The revered observance coincides with the final rites of the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistani Muslims celebrated the beginning of the Muslim festival on Monday with food and prayers for the people of Gaza and Kashmir. 

“Festivities and sacrifice of animals are continuing on the second day of Eid-Al-Adha today [Tuesday],” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported. 

“People will also continue to visit relatives and friends to celebrate Eid festivities and picnic spots are also witnessing unusual rush.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday exchanged Eid greetings with his counterpart from Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement. 

“The leaders also exchanged views on enhancing bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade, investment, energy, and export of skilled labor,” the PMO said about Sharif’s call with Al-Sabah. 

“They also discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest, reaffirming their commitment to working closely together for the advancement of shared goals and objectives.”

The Pakistan government has announced a three-day holiday for Eid, from Monday to Wednesday.

According to tanners associations, over six million animals valued at approximately Rs531 billion ($1.9 billion) were sacrificed during the three-day Eid festival in 2023. As many, if not more, animals are expected to be sacrificed this year.


Pakistani retiree sacrifices money for divine reward with free slaughtering services on Eid

Updated 18 June 2024
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Pakistani retiree sacrifices money for divine reward with free slaughtering services on Eid

  • Professional butchers can charge anything from $70-140 to slaughter goats, cows and camels on Eid Al-Adha
  • Wajid Farid slaughters animals on Eid pro bono, asks people to donate his fees to mosques or the poor

KARACHI: For 65-year-old retired government employee Wajid Farid, the Eid holiday is all about the spirit of giving.

While professional butchers can charge anything from $70-140 to slaughter an animal, Farid offers the service for free on the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, traditionally marked by the slaughter of animals, whose meat is shared with family members, friends and the poor.

“It’s been 18 years since I started this job of butchering out of passion,” Farid told Arab News as he cooked food at a small eatery he runs in the Gazdarabad neighborhood near Karachi’s famous M.A. Jinnah Road.

“I don’t take any money from anyone for this and ask them to give this money either to a mosque or to a deserving person in charity.”

Farid’s services are mostly sought by his friends and relatives, but he never hesitates to slaughter the animals of strangers who come to seek his help as Karachi faces a dearth of skilled butchers amid high demand during Eid.

“I am very thankful to Allah that despite my age I am doing this,” he said, crediting the blessings in his life to the mantra of giving rather than getting. “Allah has given me so much courage and strength. I don’t have any kind of illness, nor do my children and wife have any illnesses.”

Farid’s friends and family say they are proud of his charity.

“This is a good deed,” Muhammad Jalal, Farid’s childhood friend, said. “He has been doing this for a long time and he does not take any money from those who avail his services but asks them to donate it to deserving people by paying for their rations, rent, or electricity bills.”