. .



Ansar Burney

Ansar Burney did Bachelor of Arts in political science from Islamia College Karachi. He did LLB from the same college in 1981 and founded the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust the same year. The primary objective of the Trust was to provide legal aid to persons unlawfully confined in prisons in the country. Later it expanded its work outside the country and thus far has succeeded to release some 400,000 unlawfully detained prisoners across the globe, majority of them in Pakistan. Over the years the Trust has expanded its operations beyond providing legal aid to unlawfully detained persons and today it is active in the spheres of human rights and relief work. He has been awarded honorary Ph.D from an institution in Sri Lanka and recently been conferred Sitare-e-Imtiaz by the government in the field of human rights, the first ever such award, which will be conferred to him by the President on March 23 this year.

By Syed M. Aslam
Jan-07- 13, 2002

PAGE: What is keeping you busy recently?

Ansar Burney: The post-war devastation in Afghanistan and tension between Pakistan and India is keeping us very busy. I returned from the arid and poverty-ridden area of Thar in Sindh last week where people are vacating the areas near the Pak-India border. I witnessed these extremely poor people vacating the area on tractor trawlers without any where to go to. We encouraged them not to leave the area and assured them that in case of a war we would pull them out. We have asked our volunteers to monitor the ration situation and keep an eye on any school which is empty to be used in case of emergency. Even without the threat of war there is a famine in the area and we are helping to dig wells. I witnessed a great irony during my visit.

PAGE: What was that?

Ansar Burney: I saw hundreds of doves flying over the area during my visit to Thar. It's a great irony that while India has amassed troops on the border, and Pakistan has only just posted the troops there, the armies of the two countries are staring each other in the eye with doves flying over the area.

PAGE: What kind of work are you doing in Afghanistan?

Ansar Burney: We have been busy in relief and humanitarian works in the war devastated country. We are participating in relief work for injured, maimed and arrested people. We are engaged in indiscriminate human relief work in the post-war Afghanistan where thousands of people are being killed, hundreds of thousands displaced. We have asked protection and security of lives of all those arrested in the country. While we condemn terrorist activities and attack in the US, we have plead all the partners of the Afghan war and the UN that all the prisoners are not Taliban, terrorists or mujahideens. There are Pakistanis, Saudis, Chechens and people of other nationalities who went to Afghanistan for business and humanitarian work. Some of them also went there to fight with the Taliban. We say that a distinction should be made between the various categories of foreign nationals arrested in Afghanistan. We seek the release of all those non-Afghan persons who have been captured in Afghanistan without being properly charged.

PAGE: How are you pursuing your case?

Ansar Burney: We have written letters to the UN and the relevant officials of the US, UK, Germany, France to make sure that the prisoners should benefit from the protection assured to them under the international laws. We have asked the UN to investigate the horrible massacre of prisoners who are being arrested, detained, tortured and killed in the most inhumane way possible. We have also strongly protested the liftings of 110 prisoners of Pakistani nationality by the Indian government from Afghanistan.

PAGE: You have also written a letter to the President General Pervez Musharraf?

Ansar Burney: Yes. We have been moved by the reports of handing over dozens of Pakistanis arrested on the border by Pakistani authorities to the US. We have requested him to let us know under what law the Government of Pakistan has handed these nationals to the US for investigation/detention. We have also asked him about any assurances that the government has received about the security for their life and chances of getting justice in the US.

PAGE: Have you done anything about the arrests of Pakistanis in the US after the September 11 attacks?

Ansar Burney: According to information available to us some 2,500 Pakistanis were arrested in the US after the horrible terrorist attacks. We have been approached by the families of these Pakistanis to know their whereabouts. We have written to the US ambassador saying that while we have no sympathy with the terrorists and criminals justice should always prevail. We have asked him to let us know the exact figures of Pakistanis arrested in the US and also if they have been accorded the legal facilities as per the UN charter.

PAGE: What message would you like to convey?

Ansar Burney: We can hardly afford to indulge in mutually destructive a climate of hate, injustices and war. Instead, let the people of Pakistan and India aspire for peace, justice, law and order, prosperity, smile and laughter.