US-Canadian family were held in Pakistan: CIA chief

Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle talks on the phone outside the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. (AFP / Mike Carroccetto)
Updated 20 October 2017
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US-Canadian family were held in Pakistan: CIA chief

WASHINGTON: A North American family who were kidnapped by a Taliban faction in Afghanistan were held for five years in Pakistan before their release last week, CIA director Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
The account is at odds with the Pakistani military’s version of events, which said it rescued the couple and their three children born in custody after a tip-off that the family had been moved into Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas from across the border in Afghanistan, where they were captured in 2012.
“We had a great outcome last week, when we were able to get back four US citizens, who had been held for five years inside of Pakistan,” Pompeo told a Washington policy forum.
The amount of time US citizen Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle spent on either side of the lawless Afghan-Pakistan border is significant for US authorities.
Washington suspects Pakistan of collusion with the Haqqani group, a hard-line Taliban faction that targets the US-backed government in Kabul and is thought to have held the hostages.
Pakistani officials secured the family’s release last week, just ahead of a key visit next week by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during which he is expected to pressure Islamabad.
Some US and Canadian officials have cast doubt on whether the family was rescued, hinting in North American media that the recovery was more of a “negotiated handover.”
“I think history would indicate that expectations for the Pakistanis willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism should be set at a very low level. Our intelligence would indicate the same,” Pompeo said.
“I think we should have a very real conversation with them about what it is they’re doing and what it is they should do and the American expectations for how they should behave,” he said.
US President Donald Trump wants to convince Afghan Taliban rebels that they have no hope of military victory and should try to negotiate a peace deal with Kabul.
But, Pompeo said, there is no chance the Taliban will do this if their fighters continue to enjoy the benefits of a safe haven on the Pakistan side of the border.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”