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|What happened to the Taliban prisoners?|
|06/07/02 at 18:54:10|
|What happened to the Taliban prisoners? - Mullah Agha Jan|
The eighth day in Shibarghan jail they began investigation every prisoner individually. They asked our names and addresses. At first all the prisoners comprising Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens and Afghans were kept together but later they sorted them out according to their nationalities and sent to separate barracks. Many Pakistani mujahideen who knew the Pushto language remained in our barracks because it was believed that Dostum would not release foreign prisoners.
Shibarghan jail covers a large area. It has a single gate, at the top of which a post for guards is built. There were several turrets on high walls of the jail. Inside near the gate there are some rooms for office use, accommodation for policemen, a womens jail, mess and hospital. Another courtyard was built inside the outer boundary of the jail which comprised of three barracks each of which had two rows of cells. The prisoners were incarcerated in these barracks. In the last room of each barrack was built simple latrines withou a flush system and water. The stench hung all time in the air in the barracks. We would offer prayers with tayamrnum. All the foreigners were locked up in barrack no.3. In the first phase the Uzbek officials of the jail who were quite inlpolite and rude began interrogation. They called the prisoners out of their barracks one by one and tortured them while investigating. The prisoners were asked different questions. Why did you come here? Which 'aalim (scholar) gave the verdict for jihad? How long did you wage jihad? They also sought information about our relatives, their names, addresses, castes and occupation. In seventeen days, lists of prisoners were completed and handed over to the Americans.
The second phase of interrogation started. A US investigation team arrived which also consisted of persons capable of interpreting different languages. The Americans continued their investigation for 15 days and used the latest equipment in this connection. When they completed interrogating a prisoner they put a white plastic ring round one of their legs, noted their morphology, took blood and hair samples to be examined in a laboratory and stored their pictures in a computer. They asked the prisoners different questions. Every one was asked to express his views about America that whether it was good or bad. "Would you come again for jihad after your release", they asked. The Americans were taken aback as most Pakistani mujahideen replied that they were bound to obey the order of their Ameer, if their Ameer ordered they would wage jihad. Every prisoner was asked questions in Arabic and English too and whoever understood these languages was parted from the others. Jewish Arabs questioned us in Arabic. I was also asked questions in Arabic but I did not respond despite my being Arabic literate because a man who was taking the prisoners outside for investigation bad told us not to speak in English or Arabic during the investigation or the Americans would take us with them. The man had spent some time in the Taliban's captivity and was treated tenderly, so he had a soft corner in his heart for ns. He hated Americans too. As he entered the barrack he used to tell us that so and so prisoner had talked with the Americans in English or Arabic and they took him with them. "Thus you must answer them in the Afghani language only", he used to say. After investigation the Americans took Taliban commanders, all the Arabs, 50 Pakistanis, 65 Chechen and Uzbekistani mujahideen with them. The US army had taken charge of all affairs in the jail during their stay. They tempted the starving mujahideen by bread to know which prisoners were commanders of the Taliban. They said if we told them about the commanders they would give us bread as a prize. With Allah's blessing nobody told them that I was a commander. After their departure Dostum's soldiers took control of the jail once again.
During investigations the officials of the US secret agencies remained extremely alert. They took a thorough search of the bodies of Arab mujahideen, removed their shirts and shalwars and scanned their bodies through a machine suspecting that they might have concealed explosives in their bodies by plastic surgery. Their feet were shackled, hands tied behind their back and eyes covered with a strip. Two men held every Arab mujahid from both sides while going for investigations and a third one with a gun in his hand moved behind in a quite alert position. Though the Arab mujahideen were in shekels, the Americans were overwhelmed with a strange fear and got jitters in front of them. We used to laugh at them secretly. During investigations hundreds of pictures of prisoners were drawn and dozens of movies were filmed. A large number of foreign journalists also visited the jail. Then the Americans did not come for the next three months. The prisoners formed their own routine and passed each day and night in zikr and worship. Most of the prisoners began learning the Quran by heart. I myself had learnt seven parahs by heart. We did not have the holy Quran thus some prisoners that had succeeded to hide a little amount of money, gave it to the guards who brought us a few copies of the holy Quran from the bazaar. As there were only a few copies of the Quran we made a schedule that every one could recite it for an hour on his turn. This process continued the whole day and night. We woke up the person who had to take his turn at night according to the schedule. He would try to learn by heart as much as he could in one hour and then woke up the next on the schedule. The whole jail presented a seen of a madrasah. Those who had good skills in tajwid taught the others. Some of them were Qari. They recited the Quran with a correct accent and a sweet voice and were always surrounded by a horde of people.
In short the Taliban turned the jail into a madrasah. But some of those prisoners who were not students had not the same routine. It was not possible to offer prayers in a single congregation for all due to a shortage of place. Thus azans were called and many congregational prayers(jamat) were offered in every barrack. Water was hardly available to have a bath or wash clothes. I could wash my clothes only twice in four months.
Eid al Azha was approaching. Somebody sent a camel to the jail for the prisoners to sacrifice on Eid. The prisoners were happy to see the camel and the center of all conversation in every barrack was that they would be given meat to eat on the day of Eid. The sacrificial camel was fastened outside the small courtyard. The prisoners' faces just began to glow whenever they heard about the camel. For their satisfaction every prisoner went near the gate and through the bars saw the camel standing in the large courtyard under the trees. After a long wait the moment came when through the vntilators, we saw the camel being sacrificed on Eid day. Sounds of cutting mean and bones rose. Eid and meat!!
Our pleasure knew no bounds. We were pleased that we would have meat after three months and it would provide some energy to our bodies too. But all that pleasore turned into grief and disappointment as the cruel officials distributed all the meat among themselves and went to their homes. As usual we were given a dry loaf of bread and some boiled rice on it. I will never forget this hard-heartedness of the jail officials.
My relatives and friends succeeded after a great struggle in persuading the jail administration for my secret release in lieu of a heavy amount of money. As I came out of the jail everything was changed in Shibarghan. There were Dostum's pictures pasted everywhere in Shibarghan. When I passed by Dostum's revelry-filled palace that was illuminated with official lights, i was asked, "Tell me! How is Qasr-I-Dostum (Dostum's palace)? Was it better in your regime or it is now?" I smiled and moved ahead. How will they be able to grasp the fact that their illuminated, twinkling lights can be sacrificed a thousands time for the simplicity of our regime. The next morning I was handed over to a Panjsheri who passed me safe and sound through all the check posts from Shibarghan to Kabul. At some check posts gueards received their share too. After passing a night at a hotel in Kabul, Alhamdulillah, I reached my home. Defeat, detention, torture, and all the hardships couldn't diverge me from my path. I feel greater perseverance and passion for jihad in my heart than before. May Allah take much more work from us in jihad. Aameen.
Mullah Agha Jan (Dharb. Vol. 4, Issue 21)
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