British intelligence ‘outsourcing’ torture to Pakistani agencies?


London : In what could be a controversial twist to Britain’s fight against terrorism, MPs are calling for a probe into allegations that “torture” of British nationals has been “outsourced” to Pakistani intelligence agencies by their British counterparts.

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The Guardian broke the story Tuesday quoting John McDonnell, Labour member for Hayes and Harlington, and Andrew Tyrie, Conservative member for Chichester, as saying the allegations should be examined by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), the body that oversees the Security Service, MI5, and the Intelligence Service, MI6.

The seriousness of the MPs’ charge is evidenced by the swift reaction from MI5, which asked the Home Office to issue a statement that said: “The government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.

“The security and intelligence agencies do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment. For reasons both ethical and legal, their policy is not to carry out any action which they know would result in torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”

The MPs, however, say their doubts are fired by three reported incidents of outsourced torture between 2003 and 2005.

In the first case, a medical student was “abducted” in Karachi and kept for two months in the offices of Pakistan’s intelligence bureau opposite the British High Commission in Karachi. He has claimed he was tortured and whipped during his detention. He was also reportedly questioned by British officials. The student was released after five months with an apology from the Intelligence Bureau.

The second case is of a British taxi driver, Tariq Mahmood from Birmingham, who alleged he was abducted in October 23 in Rawalpindi and released five months later. His family suggested the hand, though unverified, of British and even American agencies in his abduction.

The third case is of another Briton Tariq Shah who was reportedly held for a fortnight for questioning on the July 7 London bombings. He described of his torture and how he was bundled into a flight to Heathrow where his passport was returned by an officer he believes belonged to British intelligence.

McDonnell said of the “evidence”: “I believe that there is now sufficient evidence from this and other cases to demonstrate that British officials outsourced the torture of British nationals to a Pakistani intelligence agency. This warrants the fullest investigation by the ISC, which is best placed initially to undertake such an inquiry.”

Tyrie, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, added: “Any torture of British nationals by Pakistani authorities would be utterly unacceptable. If credible allegations implicating British officials in such mistreatment have been made then they require investigation.

In April, The Guardian reported that four other British men, who had been detained in Pakistan during British-led counter-terrorism operations and held illegally for several months without access to a lawyer or court, had each alleged that British officials colluded in their torture.

One of the four, Salahuddin Amin, 33, a university graduate from Luton, later told a British court that he was interviewed by two MI5 officers several times in 10 months, in between being whipped, beaten with sticks, suspended from his wrists and threatened with an electric drill. MI5 was permitted to give its response to the allegations in camera, with the media and the public excluded.