NATIONAL

Musharraf Govt. asked to explain doctor's detention

ISLAMABAD NOV. 7. Much to the embarrassment of the Musharraf regime, a court in Pakistan has asked the Government to explain why it has detained Amir Aziz, leading orthopaedic surgeon of Lahore, on alleged charges of links with the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Acting on a petition filed by the mother of the doctor, the Lahore High Court has asked the Government to explain by tomorrow the reasons behind the continued detention of Dr. Aziz. The doctor's mother had prayed to the court challenging his detention and seeking to fight any attempt to extradite him to the United States.

While directing the Government to provide all the relevant information about the detention of Dr. Aziz, the judge said that the doctor was a Pakistani who deserved "constitutional protection.''

The arrest of Dr. Aziz over three weeks ago has triggered a furore in Pakistan. Initial reports said that the personnel of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) picked him up.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), alliance of religious parties, observed a protest last Friday against his detention and doctors in different parts of the country staged demonstrations.

A few days after Dr. Aziz was picked up for questioning the Pakistan Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, clarified that he was under the custody of the Pakistani agencies and there was no question of Pakistan extraditing him to the United States. Maj. Gen. (retd.) Haider did however concede that "he was detained in the light of information given by some members of the Al-Qaeda who were being questioned.''

Friends and family members of Dr. Aziz have said that the doctor visited Afghanistan during the Taliban rule to rebuild a medical college and had no links with the Taliban. The doctors' community has reacted sharply to his detention and argued that even if he had treated operatives of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, it was no crime. Their contention is that he was only discharging his professional responsibilities.

Earlier this week, the Interior Minister had hinted that the activities of Dr. Aziz were not "only restricted to the medical treatment'' of operatives of the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. "We are issuing a press release regarding the allegation against Dr. Aziz and the latest developments in this regard,'' Maj. Gen. Haider told reporters. However, the press statement never materialised.

The Minister had reiterated that Dr. Aziz would not be handed over to the U.S. "We had told the nation that if some professional worked in Afghanistan we would not bother him, unless there is proved indulgence in any unlawful activity."

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