Tale of a Pakistani Diplomat in US
US exceptionalism (the same rules do not apply to us) is no secret, here is a personal experience of a Pakistani diplomat in the US.
I am personally aware of one case where FBI Agent Richard Conti tried to bully and intimidate a friend of mine in Seattle, to “give up” names of “terrorists” and “terrorist sympathizers” from the mosque that my friend goes to and when my friend protested that he did not know any, Agent Conte swore at him and asked him how it was possible that my friend had been going to his Mosque for over a dozen years and did not know of ANY terrorists?
Agent Conte then gave my friend three days to give him names or Agent Conte would shut down my friend’s business, bring the IRS down on him and “really make trouble” for him.
My friend contacted me and I was able to meet the then-US Atorney John McKay, who ordered Agent Conte to back off.
About a year later, I was reviewing this case with a high-ranking FBI agent who dismissively told me that Agent Conte’s behavior was not illegal.
Perhaps not, but it was highly immoral and VERY unethical. Plus, any names my friend would give him after being forced to do so, would be innocent people, just like the names forced out during the McCarthy anti-Communist witch-hunts.
Translated by me from Urdu from a Pakistani paper dated, “Week of Feb 19, 2011“.
The story of Yunus Qureshi in his own words
On the evening of October 27, 2005, after my work at the Pakistan consulate in New York, was done, I was heading home when Police car stopped me. The officer asked me to step out to answer a few questions and as soon as I did so, two men in civilian clothes emerged from his car and he pulled his gun and ordered me to raise my hands.
They searched my car and my bag and people began gathering. In front of everyone, they handcuffed me, put me in their car and drove away. Stunned, I kept asking why they were doing this, but I got no answer. I went through all possibilities as to why they would do such a thing but I could not figure it out, I even wondered if I had issued a passport to the wrong person by mistake.
They drove me to the Federal Plaza, which is the head office for Immigration and the FBI in New York.
They knew who I was, where I worked and what I did there but they never responded to my questions as to why I had been brought there, but put me in a cell.
After a while, they took me out of the cell, took my fingerprints and then hung a name plate from my neck and took some pictures, the word on the plate was “ARRESTED”. I was returned to my cell.
A few hours later, I was taken out again and taken to a room, three men entered and said, “We are from the FBI”.
At first they apologized and told me they were sorry that I had to suffer this and then they said I had been brought here because they wanted me to work with the FBI and they offered me “all kinds of benefits and conveniences”.
I insisted they they allow me to contact my consulate or, inform my consulate of my circumstances but they continued as if I had said nothing and kept on repeating their offer.
When I flatly rejected their offers, they lost their polite demeanor and got angry and left saying, “You will suffer consequences for this!”. It was late night when they returned me to my cell.
I was very worried and wondered why I should have to suffer this, I couldn’t sleep for some time.
At about 2:30 a.m. Two FBI men took me from the cell, told me to raise my hands, took me from the building, to New Jersey Elizabeth detention Center. They had me put on prisoner uniform and put me in a cell with other prisoners. This cell was more like a ward with about 10-12 prisoners and the same number of beds.
We were under to watchful eyes of a warden and were not permitted to speak.
The next morning (Oct 28) I called my consulate and informed them of my situation. Some members of my consulate arrived and got all details of my experience from me. They told me that they would take the matter up with the US State Department immediately. They immediately sent a detailed letter to the State Department requesting my immediate release.
I was neither released nor did they say why I was being held. This was a violation of the Vienna Convention, but obviously America considers itself above such rules.
In the days that followed, Pakistani consular officers visited me and kept my spirits high by telling me I would soon be released however, with each passing day, I got more and more depressed. I learnt that the Pakistani ambassador and the Consul-general at New York were in continuous contact with the State Department but have not yet received and response. All the State Department would say was that Mohammed Yunus Qureshi was in the hands of the FBI and that State Department was conducting an inquiry; that there was no more information because the FBI was not obliged to answer to the State Department especially since 9-11.
About a week later I got an attorney on my own through some friends. The attorney took my case and studied my situation and two days later, told me that there was no charge against me that should cause me any worry, that FBI was doing this only to frighten me and the get me to agree to their demands that I become their informant. They want to frighten me as much as possible so they will not let me go, but I should not worry, as soon as I am free, I can sue them.
I was astonished that there should be such flagrant violation of rules, that I was not simply a Pakistani citizen, but a member of the diplomatic staff at the Pakistan Consulate; if they could do this to me, how would a normal Pakistani citizen fare in this country? It was unbelievable that the FBI would not even pay attention to the Consulate General and the Ambassador of Pakistan. I had never imagined such thuggish behavior from the FBI.
To compound my depression, after my consulate found out that I had retained an attorney, they told me that if I proceeded with an attorney, they would cease working on my behalf and would stop cooperating with me. These words from my bosses hammered in my brain; if my own people abandoned me so, how could I expect any better treatment form my captors?!
The next day, I informed my attorney of my discussions with my consulate and that I did not wish to proceed with his help because I did not wish to get in deeper trouble. I told the FBI that if they had any charges against me they should inform me or, they should release me so I may go back to Pakistan.
About tend days into my imprisonment, I was again approached by the two FBI agents who repeated their “offer” to me. They told me not to continue suffering and if I were to work with them, I would be given conveniences a such a large amount of money that I cannot imagine it AND I would be given US citizenship. They got very angry when I rejected their offer again. Since I never agreed to work with them, I never found out what they needed me for, nor did I ever know how I became the focus of their attention…maybe because I was held in high esteem among the local Pakistani community.
After 9-11, may Pakistanis were imprisoned in the US, some of whom were there illegally. The Pakistan Consulate set up a special office to deal with those people and I was placed as a special consular assistant in New York to attend to the imprisoned Pakistanis and help keep their morale up. For about three months I used to visit them right there in the federal prison where I was held. My work during that period enhanced my standing in the Pakistani local community.
About a week after I rejected the FBI “offer”, a Pakistani American came to visit me, he introduced himself as “Kazim” and told me that he was also working for the FBI and there were many others as well who, after working with the FBI, have ben living very well and I too, could enjoy my life like that. He told me that if I insisted on refusing the FBI offer, I could place myself and my family in great problems. This fellow “Kazim” continued with his enticements mixed in with veiled threats in order to frighten me. He also told me that they were aware that I had served the local Pakistani community well and had a high reputation there, that what I could do for the FBI was unique, but he did not elaborate.
I told him I was almost 60 years old, had enjoyed life quite well and had little desire for further enjoyments.
I should note that half my family including my wife, were in Pakistan while a few of my children were living in Queens, New York. The FBI raided the house several times, but did not find them there. This was because I told my children the day after my imprisonment, that they should get away and find some unknown place to live until I was freed; I had been imprisoned for about a month by now.
The FBI must have decided that since I would not break and would not cooperate with them and since my consulate knew about me and it was impossible to disappear me, they may as well release me. The FBI was worried that I might sue them if they released me however, I had been informed by my own consulate that I would be on my own if I did that and they would provide no help at all, so al I wanted to do was to be free and return to Pakistan.
An FBI agent visited me and told me that I would be released if I agreed not to take them to court. I told them all I wanted to do was to go back to Pakistan. At this, they took out a paper and typed on it that I would not pursue and remedies in court against the FBI.
The next day I was made to appear in court where the prosecutor asked me two questions, “Do you wish to charge anyone in court?”
“Do you wish to return to Pakistan?”
The judge said, “Take him away”.
On the 29th of November, I was deported from America. Nobody from the Pakistan Consulate came to see me at the airport, but two FBI agents, Scott and Paul, escorted me all the way to Islamabad. Upon our arrival at Islamabad, I was handed over to Pakistani-stationed FBI agents and Scott and Paul took the very next flight out.
The FBI agent in Islamabad treated me with courtesy and told me I could now go home.
Ever since then, I pretended that I had just had a terrible nightmare, I was due for retirement and I decided that if I raised any fuss, all I would get would be more trouble, even my family asked me to keep quiet and so for the past six years, I kept silent about this.
Journalist: I asked Mr, Qureshi why he decided to speak after six years of self-imposed silence and he replied, “I would still have remained silent but after America raised so much fuss over a murderer that he was protected under diplomatic visa, my friends approached me and said what happened to you is no longer your own issue, but it is now of national interest. I want to know by what rights does America seek to protect a murderer who killed two people, bur America imprisoned an innocent man who had a diplomatic passport, for thirty-three days, WHY?”
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