ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan is urging the United States to release 55 of the 58 Pakistani militants imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because the government believes they have no ties to Al Qaeda, an official said Saturday.
Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider made the recommendation Saturday to visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a senior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is also expected to take up the issue of the prisoners' release during his visit next month to the United States, the official said.
The prisoners were interrogated by a team of Pakistani anti-terrorism experts during a recent visit to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo, who also conducted background checks on the prisoners and their families inside Pakistan, according to Pakistani authorities.
Most of the Pakistanis held in Cuba were handed over to U.S. officials by leaders of Afghanistan's northern alliance, who were motivated by U.S. reward money that was given in exchange for alleged commanders and soldiers in Usama bin Laden's forces, intelligence officials here say.
Nearly 600 prisoners with alleged links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban are being held at the Guantanamo Bay facility.
Pakistan is one of the United States' key allies in the war against terrorism. Last year, Musharraf abandoned his support for the Taliban, and he has allowed the Americans to use bases here for operations in Afghanistan.
Several pro-Taliban Islamic groups, however, opposed Musharraf's decision and rallied Pakistanis to cross the border and fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most of those were either killed or detained when the Taliban retreated.