The US Senate has released a report on the CIA's apparent use of torture against terror suspects, including ones from Pakistan. Experts say Islamists are likely to use it as a justification for their own brutalities.
The US embassy in Pakistan is on high alert and has issued warnings of the potential anti-American protests after the US Senate released a controversial report on Tuesday outlining harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA on terror suspects.
In a statement, the embassy in Islamabad said "the release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's study on the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation program could prompt anti-US protests and violence against US interests, including private US citizens."
The 6,700-page report by the Senate Intelligence Committee said the CIA torture of al Qaeda and other Islamist suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged. Former CIA agents and their supporters, however, have criticized the scathing report, accusing its authors of falsehoods and of politicizing the sensitive issue.
Islamabad on alert
Pakistan is a US ally in the war against terror but anti-Western sentiment is rife in the Islamic republic. A number of political and religious parties want Islamabad to withdraw support for Washington's battle against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in the country's northwestern tribal areas and the neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani military's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have been collaborating with the CIA since Pakistan's former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf decided to join the US-led alliance against the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001. Since then, Islamabad has captured and handed over hundreds of terror suspects to the United States.
DW's Islamabad correspondent, Shakoor Rahim, said on Tuesday the authorities beefed up security around the US embassy in the capital Islamabad. A number of religious groups have planned anti-CIA and anti-US protests, which the police officials fear might get violent, he said.
Abdul Agha, a journalist in Islamabad, told DW the Islamic parties were likely to use the CIA report to garner the public support for their Islamist and anti-US agenda. "They will tell the people how cruel the CIA is, and why the Pakistanis need to rally behind the groups like the Taliban that are waging a jihad against America. They will use it for the domestic politics, of course," he said.
But Ali K. Chishti, a Karachi-based security analyst, says he doesn't see too much reaction to the Senate "revelations."
"I think that most people will welcome the fact that the US Senate exposed the CIA's torture," Chishti told DW.
Islamists' claims and the report
Chishti, who has been in close contact with a number of intelligence and security officials in Pakistan, says that Pakistan handed over a number of al Qaeda and the Taliban operatives to the CIA for more than a decade, who were interrogated at usually at Afghanistan's Bagram military base or were sent to the Guantanamo jail.
One such person was Aafia Siddiqui, a female Pakistani scientist with ties to al Qaeda. Siddiqui was arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan in 2008, and is currently incarcerated at a US prison in Texas. Pakistan's Islamists demand her release and claim that she was a victim of CIA's torture when she was in an Afghan prison.
"The US Senate's torture report will revive Siddiqui's memories, and the Islamic groups in Pakistan will increase their pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to secure her release," said Agha.
Analysts say that the report will give impetus to the Islamists' claims that the war on terror is unjust and barbaric. "The Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers will try to cover up their own brutality. We must not forget that these groups are responsible for killing more than 50,000 Pakistanis, including the soldiers and policemen, in the past ten years," Agha pointed out.
The 'trickle-down effect'
Experts like Agha also say that the CIA's methods of interrogation might be effective in thwarting potential terror attacks but they also embolden their allies and their authoritarian regimes to carry on their own violent actions against opponents.
For instance, Pakistani human rights activists accuse the nuclear-armed nation's ubiquitous army and the ISI of kidnapping and torturing separatists in the western Balochistan province, as well as Islamist insurgents in the country's northwestern areas, in the name of fighting terrorism.
In July, the Pakistani parliament passed an anti-terror law, called Protection of Pakistan Bill, which rights campaigners say allows security forces to detain and torture suspects for up to 60 days without disclosing their whereabouts or allegations against them.
"According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Pakistani army operates dozens of illegal underground torture cells in different parts of the country and various intelligence agencies do not share complete information with each other about their operations and torture cells," Malik Siraj Akbar, a Washington-based Pakistani expert on Balochistan, told DW.
Most recently, mutilated bodies of three political activists in the southern Sindh province were discovered. Two of the deceased were affiliated with separatist parties. Human rights groups claim they had been killed by security forces.
"The culture of torture trickles down to the bottom. As long as the powerful nations continue to use torture and violate international laws, you can't expect the intelligence agencies of countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to act in a civilized manner," Agha said.