Aimal Kansi’s Extradition to the US
The Nation
June 30, 1997
Aimal Kansi was accused of killing two CIA agents and injuring three others outside the intelligence agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia on January 25, 1993. One of the 10 most-wanted fugitives on the FBI’s list, with a head-money of two million dollars, he was on arrested on June 15, 1997 from Shalimar Hotel in DG Khan in a joint FBI-ISI operation and then transported to the United States in a special plane.

Three days after his arrest, Kansi was produced before the judge of a court in Virginia’s Fairfax County. He was sent to jail for one month without bail, with the court also arranging a counsel for him. Proceedings of the case are expected to begin in September. On board C 141, Kansi was reported to have pleaded guilty. If the court also found him guilty, Kansi will be awarded death penalty in accordance with Virginia laws.

A week after Kansi’s arrest, Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence with long-standing political ambitions, accused the government of violating the country’s Constitution by handling over Kansi to the FBI. Two days later, he filed a petition in the Lahore High Court against what he called “kidnapping” of Kansi by the FBI.

Aimal Kansi is the son of Abdullah Jan Kansi, who died in 1989. Reports in the US media as well as my discussion with a cousin of Kansi, a civil servant, confirm that Kansi had killed CIA personnel with his Chinese-made AK-47 rifle as an act of revenge for “American betrayal to his father.” Kansi’s family reportedly had facilitated the supply of US arms to Afghan Mujahideen through the Balochistan border with Afghanistan. US media reports also indicate that the said killing was Kansi’s lonesome venture and not part of any transnational terrorist group’s militancy.

“I want to tell America that sons of Pakistan are still alive,” said the ex-ISI head, the day he filed the said petition in the Lahore High Court. The ISI had collaborated closely with the CIA during the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 80s. Mr. Gul had headed ISI in the last phase of this eroding cooperation. This was the time when the United States had started to abandon the cause of jihad, as the 1987 Geneva Accords guaranteed the Soviet troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mr. Gul may have some personal scores to settle with the Americans, and that is why he is making a big issue out of Kansi’s extradition. However, his personal agenda could harm the country’s ties with the United States.

Anti-Americanism is a popular theme for aspirants for political power in Muslim countries like Pakistan, as it can win them instant support from a population having long-standing anti-American sentiments. Like Kansi or Gul, there are many Afghan factional leaders who felt betrayed by the United States after it abandoned Afghanistan, especially following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from there in February 1989. The foremost among such leaders is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, chief of Hiezb-e Islam.

Over two weeks have passed since Kansi’s arrest from Pakistani territory, the Federal government is still tight-lipped about whether it had followed the due legal course in arresting and then handing over Kansi to the US, and, if not, under what arrangements he was extradited to the United States. The result is that some unimportant political figures are capitalizing on Kansi’s case by orchestrating the domestically popular anti–American rhetoric and, in fact portraying Kansi as some sort of a national hero. And this is happening at a time when the country is bending over backwards to improve its relations with the United States.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since the passage of the much-criticized Pressler Amendment in 1990. Islamabad has yet to receive all the military spares under the Brown Amendment, which is a partial waiver to Pressler. And, now, after Indonesia’ s refusal to get F-16s from the United States, there is no guarantee that, in near future, Islamabad will be able to get back from Washington the money, worth over a billion dollars, which it had paid for buying some 28 F-16s.

Interestingly, the stand of the main opposition party, the PPP, on Kansi’s case is almost the same as that of the government. To Benzair Bhutto, Kansi was fugitive for whom this land does not have any place and, therefore, he should have been handed over to the United States. This was what Mushahid Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Information and Culture, had stated at his June 22 press conference in Islamabad. He had termed the Kansi affair as “sensitive” and cautioned against “exploiting it for political motives.”

“We will not give protection to any person said to be engaged in terrorism, since this can only hurt the interests of Pakistan,” said Mr Hussain. While criticizing those who were trying to portray Kansi as a national hero, Mushahid said: “Kansi is simply a fugitive from justice, wanted for questioning in a crime that he is alleged to have committed in the United States…Pakistan has no responsibility either for his actions in the United States or for providing him any sort of protection against the law…We are passing through a minefield. Nobody should try to cash in on this situation, as it is a dangerous tendency to undermine national issues by exploiting every issue.”

Although, in her first press reaction to Kansi’s arrest, Ms Bhutto was supportive of the government action, later she stressed that the government should have handed over Kansi to the United States after fulfilling the requirements mentioned in the country’s extradition law as her government had done in the case of Iraqi national Ramzi Yousaf. Involved in New York’s World Trade Centre’s February 1993 bombing, Ramzi was arrested a year later form a guest house in Islamabad in a similar early morning FBI-ISI operation and, then, immediately, flown to the United States.

Leaving aside this difference of perception between the county’s two main political parties over the legality of the case, both seem to share a fundamental principle governing the current state of world politics: that on the global issue of trans-national terrorism, Pakistan cannot act in isolation; rather, it has to cooperate with the international community. In recent years, Pakistan has extradited several of its nationals to the United States facing charges of drug-trafficking in US courts. However, before doing this, the government had fulfilled the legal requirements, the same, as claims Ms Bhutto, were fulfilled in Ramzi’s case.

For years, Pakistan has cooperated with the international community, including the United States, in checking drug trafficking and trans-national terrorism. On drug trafficking, however, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had almost stopped taking Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) into confidence for a year or so–until it finally got hold of Pakistan Air-Force Squadron Leader Farooq Khan in April 1996, with a bag full of heroin at New York’s JFK Airport. Why did the DEA decide not to share sensitive information on drug-trafficking with the ANF? “Because it had somehow discovered that whenever any such information was shared, it was leaked, making the task of the agency’s personnel difficult to trade and nab drug traffickers,” says an official of the US Embassy in Islamabad.

Perhaps that is why the joint FBI-ISI operation to nab Kansi, with a head money of two million dollars, was conducted so secretly. It is being speculated that only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Jehangir Karamat–whom President Bill Clinton personally called for help–and a handful of Pakistani intelligence officials, accompanying FBI agents, knew about the operation to arrest Kansi.

Kansi was arrested in an early morning raid on June 15 in a D G Khan hotel. The plane which took him from Pakistan landed in Washington, DC on June 17th night. What happened during the 60 hours? Did the C-141 plane take this much time to reach the US from the country? Even if the time for refueling C-141 is included, the plane should have left Pakistani airspace some time on night of June 16th.

Where was Kansi then for two days? Was he taken first to some US-friendly Arab state? Or, did he remain confined in a secret hideout? Consider the latter possibility! Did, during his two day confinement in Pakistan, the government try to fulfill legal formalities of the case before handing Kansi over to the US authorities for extradition?

Under Pakistan’s 1972 Extradition Act, a first class magistrate of the area from where Kansi was arrested should have first issued an arrest warrant. Then, after his arrest, Kansi should have been produced before the said magistrate for initial hearing of the case. Even if this hearing had taken a day or two to conclude holding Kansi guilty of the crime, he had to stay in Pakistan for two weeks after his arrest under the said Act. And even if the magistrate had decided against him, Kansi would have had the right to appeal against the verdict.