Friday, October 06, 2006

A Pakistani cleric has been arrested for running a private jail to which he lured dozens of drug addicts from Britain

Isambard Wilkinson:

In a raid this week, police found 113 people, aged between 12 and 50, bound in chains and shackled together at a madrassa, or religious school, in a remote village in northern Pakistan.

At least seven were British nationals of Pakistani origin.

Many prisoners, whose relatives consigned them to the care of Maulana Ilyas Qadri hoping they would be cured, claimed to have been sexually assaulted, beaten and starved.

The alarm was raised when two men shackled together escaped and told the police.

Abdul Majeed Afridi, the area police chief, said: "We were not mentally prepared for such a scene when we entered the madrassa. It seemed something out of a drama rather than reality.

"They were utterly terrified of him and the guards. They were beaten black and blue and claimed it was a jail, not a rehabilitation centre."

The cleric, who denies doing anything wrong, told The Daily Telegraph that he made patients chain themselves up and sign a disclaimer ordering that they should not be released until after a certain period of time. Their families paid about £50 a month for the "treatment".

"Married men would be chained for one year and unmarried men for 18 months," the mullah said.

"But people from Britain were chained for only three or four months because of pressure from back home."

He added: "Because of my spiritual treatment they would not feel pain."

Yesterday, at the Dar-ul-Aloom Kinzul Islam madrassa, in the village of Bhadiana, outside Haripur on the banks of the Tarbela Dam, the central chain to which "patients" were attached still ran 220ft along the stable-like cell block.

Guards had scribbled the names of inmates in exercise books noting who had received calls and confirming that they had not mentioned anything negative about the madrassa. Many calls were from worried relatives in Britain.

The mullah distributed leaflets in Britain entitled "War against drug abuses". They claim that "a patient once admitted will never use drugs again" and "not a single doze [sic] of medicine is given".

"Addicts of heroin, opium and hashish from all over the world are treated here spiritually through Quranic verses."

Abdul Majid Mahmoud, from Stoke-on-Trent, said his family flew him from Manchester to Pakistan after he developed heroin addiction.

"My uncle met me at the airport and a week later he brought me here," said Abdul, who was reduced to skin and bone while in the madrassa.

"It was treatment by stick. Look at these chains," he said, pointing to the shackles on his ankles.

Six other Britons had already left and dozens more are understood to have passed through the madrassa.

Shahid Rashim, from Islamabad, said some patients were made "monitors" and would beat the others.

The mullah has practised his "cure" for years with impunity. He wielded such power that the police force had been instructed to drop a previous investigation.

Pakistan: Mad Mullah's Muslim Jailhouse


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