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Story of an American Baloch who spent 10 months in ISI dungeons
“My personal enmity is only with the ISI,” US citizen Afzal Bugti, 57, a successful businessman from Chicago, who went back to Pakistan, said. There were rumors that he had been abducted because of personal enmity when he vanished into thin air in May 2016, trackless. Bugti’s cardinal son: talking on the phone with his tribal chief, who is also his party chief, Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti in Geneva.
“I am alive today simply because I am an American,” Bugti said on phone from Karachi. “For 10 long months I did not see the light of the day, when I was freed from the dungeon my eyes could not stand the day’s light.”
Spooks of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence descended on his apartment in upper middle class Phase 6 Defense Housing Authority apartment on the morning of May 4, 2016. “They were four or five people in militia uniform. They handcuffed me and put a mask on my face,” Bugti said. Afzal Bugti was then taken to an ISI torture chamber in Malir cantonment. “Their first question was ‘who do you have in Switzerland? What are your relations with Brahumdagh Bugti?’,” the ISI spooks asked him. Afzal Bugti replied, “Brahumdagh Bugti is my relative. My late father Judge Ali Dost Bugti and Brahumdagh Bugti’s grandfather Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti were first cousins. In addition I am member of his party, the Baloch Republican Party.”
He said the ISI sleuths chained his legs in Malir cantonment. “I was kept in a five by seven feet cage with four other inmates.”
“I was kept without water or food for 24 or more hours. Was not allowed to sleep with light bulb shining before my eyes. When I said I have done nothing and don’t know nothing they would say, ‘You are lying.’ They used water boarding. They would overpower me and shove my face and head in water. I felt as if I was dead.”
He said after he would faint they would take him back to the cell. “Then again the torture would begin all over again., which included beatings and hanging me upside down.”
One of the main questions he was asked was “Where are the Sarmachars (Baloch freedom fighters)?” Bugti said he told his tormentors he was willing to give them in writing that he was the head of the Baloch uprising. At the ISI dungeon in Malir Cantonment, “They asked me all whole lot of questions, ‘What is your relations with people on Facebook? Who gives the money for holding Nawab Bugti’s anniversary? Who funds the Baloch militants, India or Afghanistan? Where is your money?” He said he offered to show them his bank statements to convince them all his monies were invested in properties, worth $ 2 million. “I told them everything I have is written in black and white.”
Bugti praises his brother-in-law Nabi Baloch for encouraging his sister Farah Baloch to travel to Karachi all the way from Cockseyville in Maryland, within 20 days of his enforced disappearance. A few weeks after she got to Karachi and began contact with the US consulate, the intense torture subsided. However, within six days of his abduction, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had also stepped in to save an American life.
After eight months of ISI captivity in Karachi and final two months in Islamabad, he was finally able to see the light of the day on March 9. “My eyes were all watery on seeing light and I could keep my eyes open,” he said. Bugti’s brother in law, Nabi Baloch, profusely thanked Senator Ben Cardin and his staff, especially caseworker Chris Pumphrey, who assisted the family in getting Ali Afzal Bugti released. “If was not for Senator Cardin, he would have been still in custody of Pakistani authorities,” Nabi Baloch said. “Credit also goes to US Consulate for their efforts to locate Mr Bugti and pressure Islamabad to have their citizen released. It was because of these efforts, we see Mr Bugti alive today.”
Farah Baloch, sister of Afzal Bugti, said she is elated her brother is alive. “I thought that I will never see him again, but I did not give up. I had full confidence in my American government to rescue my brother.”
Afzal Bugti thanks Hakim Baloch, member of parliament who belongs to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and M. Richardson, American Citizens Services officer and Rodney S. LeGrand, consular section chief at the US consulate in Karachi for saving his life.
On the final day of his captivity, the intelligence sleuths told him, “Listen up. Neither we know who you are, nor you know who we are. Be careful, there won’t be a second chance.” So when he went before the judge to officially close the case, Afzal Bugti said he said knew what the outcome would be if he told the truth to the judge– most judges in Pakistan are subservient to the omnipotent ISI. “I told the judge I was not feeling well due to stress. So I slipped away for a fiesta.” But to this correspondent, he said, “What I went through, I won’t wish it for my worst enemy.”
Bugti can indeed thank his lucky American stars he is alive. Zaffar Baloch, president of the Baloch National Movement in Toronto, says the most conservative figures, cited by human rights practitioners, is many as 1,800 people have fallen victim to Pakistan’s torture, kill and dump policy while the number of victims of enforced disappearances is more than 8,000.
Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture but reports say torture is widely practiced by the state to crush dissent.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.