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Women freed after forced confession

ISLAMABAD, March 29: A confrontation between the government and hard-line religious leaders in the federal capital eased to some extent on Thursday when students of Madressah Hafsa released three kidnapped women and a six-month-old baby with a threat that they could be picked up again if their demand for release of a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official and five other activists was not met within 15 days.

Police took the women in protection after their release when the head of the family, Shamim Akhtar, disowned her statement made at a news conference at the madressah, in which she admitted that she had been involved in immoral activities and announced that she would not continue such acts in future. Soon after her release, Ms Akhtar said she had given the statement under pressure from the militant students of the madressah who had kidnapped her with three other family members from her residence on Tuesday evening.

She alleged that she had been victimised by the militant students because she did not belong to their sect and that during the confinement she and her family members had been asked to change their sect.

“I was forced to speak at the news conference inside the madressah as a pre-condition for our release,” Ms Akhtar said. She said she had been given a written statement before the press conference by the madressah management.

She said she had been given the options of being tried by Muftis in Lal Masjid, undergoing a trial in any court, or giving the confessional statement. “I opted for the last option and read out the statement before the reporters,” she said.

She denied the allegations levelled by the Lal Masjid management and some aides of hard-line ulema that she ran a brothel. “I have been living there for 30 years and have very good relations with my neighbours. If I was wrong, my neighbours would have kicked me out and lodged cases against me,” she said.

Describing her ordeal of more than 60 hours in detention, she said her daughter and daughter-in-law had been kept in separate rooms.

She alleged that before being presented to the media for the press conference she had been threatened that her family members could be killed if she said anything contrary to the written statement.

She said she and her family had been kept in illegal confinement for two and a half days.

She said the students of Madressah Hafsa had told her that they had forced the government to bow down twice recently — once when they captured the government’s children’s library and then when they kidnapped her and her family members.

“They said that their demand for the release of former ISI official Khalid Khawaja and five other religious activities was not met, they would create more problems for the government,” she said. The released women are expected to be moved out of the city.

Source: Dawn