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
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.
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.
What kind of work are you doing in
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
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.
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.
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.
What message would you like to
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.