Will the PM fight for Pakistanis in Guantanamo?

Published: February 16, 2015
The writer is the director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and is also the Legal Fellow of Reprieve UK in Pakistan. He tweets @ShazadAkbar

The writer is the director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and is also the Legal Fellow of Reprieve UK in Pakistan. He tweets @ShazadAkbar

The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its CIA torture report recently, detailing the CIA practices of torture and inhuman treatment of its prisoners since 9/11. The report has some shocking details of CIA torture techniques of ‘enhanced interrogation’, their inefficacy in fighting terrorism and how the CIA and the White House have lied to Congress and policymakers since 9/11. The report details some disturbing torture techniques that were used on prisoners kept in black sites by the CIA; however, at the same time, the report failed to mention that most such prisoners were captured illegally or rendered from totalitarian regimes. The CIA still likes to think that its techniques saved lives; the US Senate thinks otherwise. In this regard, the story below requires Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s attention.

Ahmed Rabbani was born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, who had migrated to Pakistan after Partition and made Karachi their home. Later, the family moved to Saudi Arabia in search of a livelihood. Rabbani naturally learnt Arabic while growing up in Saudi Arabia. Our prime minister, more than anyone else, would understand from his exile years in Saroor Palace that among other things, one of the “perils” of living in Saudi Arabia is learning Arabic as many people in his family speak it fluently. Rabbani did not settle in Saudi Arabia and eventually moved back to Pakistan. He started his life as a taxi driver in Karachi in the 1990s, taking advantage of the prime minister’s yellow cab scheme and soon his clientele included Arab visitors to Karachi. They found a guide and driver speaking their language in a foreign land helpful and started referring him to others coming this way. Rabbani got married in Karachi in 2001. Then the horrible day of 9/11 arrived and with it, the despicable things that happened thousands of miles away in the US sealed Rabbani’s fate. Little did he know that speaking Arabic, which was an asset on his CV till then, would become the reason for his torment.

In December 2001, he was picked up in Karachi and kept in a detention centre, where he was tortured by Pakistanis in the presence of American agents. Then in January 2002, he was shifted to Islamabad where he was rendered to the Americans without any due process. If you are looking for proof of this, I must refer you to Pervez Musharraf’s own confession in his book, In the Line of Fire, where he admits “handing over hundreds of Pakistanis in return for bounties in millions”. Rabbani’s real ordeal actually began now. Here are some details narrated by him to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who has filed an affidavit before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in litigation filed by Rabbani’s family.

Rabbani told Clive that at times guards in Guantanamo Bay would enter his cell and tie his hands behind his back. One of the heavier guards would sit on his back. One would forcefully pull his nose to the right while the other would forcefully pull his mouth to the left. One guard would violently pull down Rabbani’s genitals to the point that he almost fainted. One applied great pressure on his eyes with Rabbani believing he would go blind. One guard would choke him with great violence. The guards would then tape his mouth, put a hood over his face and tape the hood tightly around his neck. He had great difficulty breathing. His hands were often shackled to a wall at a distance of approximately one metre from the ground. At this distance, he could neither lie down to sleep nor stand up without bending over. His feet were also shackled and in this position he was forced to sleep while seated. He was, in fact, deliberately deprived of sleep. Guards would bang at his door to wake him up, or put extremely loud music in his cell. He was kept in this position for at least a month. He was often burnt with cigarettes, threatened him with sodomy and even buried alive. He was sprayed with cold water during freezing winters, placed in a small box with his face covered in a mask and tape, and forced to sit on a frozen block of ice until his legs and feet would turn blue or green.

All this is not part of fiction but are hard facts coming out of the CIA’s dark prisons for a while, and now confirmed by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. What is more troubling is the confirmation through the intelligence committee report that Rabbani turned out to be the wrong guy nabbed by the CIA.

Rabbani has been in America’s illegal detention for the last 14 years. His only child is 13 and was born months after his capture and rendition to the US. His son has never seen his father, and Rabbani didn’t know about his existence till he was almost six years old. Such a fate should not be the lot of any human being, let alone of an innocent man held without charge or due process for so many years. Hundreds of other prisoners from Guantanamo, who belonged to countries which demanded their release and were held illegally by the US, have been released. Our prime minister, who has personally seen prison and suffered through exile, should understand Rabbani’s plight. It is his duty to demand his release and of all other such prisoners, who are being held without due process by other states. Real democracy gives its citizens protection from tyranny, torture and excesses of the powerful. If making roads, metro buses, bridges and motorways is real democracy, then our military dictators have done a much better job. Rabbani’s family has filed a constitutional petition with the IHC seeking his return and accountability of those who rendered him to the US without any due process, but it remains ultimately our prime minister’s duty to bring such prisoners home.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • saeed
    Feb 17, 2015 - 1:30AM

    Will he fight for Pakistan? Recommend

  • Feb 17, 2015 - 2:09AM
  • Ejaaz
    Feb 17, 2015 - 2:10AM

    The PM should ask for return of Pakistanis. But it is disappointing that the Pakistanis who handed them over are not being put behind bars. Why not go after all the Military Honchos who handed all these Pakistanis to the Americans? Did the author ever raise the issue against the Pakistanis who were complicitly rounding up and selling other Pakistanis to the Americans? Recommend

  • Alfa Romeo
    Feb 17, 2015 - 6:55AM

    & the military general who exported those Pakistani’s for hard cash us never questioned!Recommend

  • observer
    Feb 17, 2015 - 10:10AM

    “Will the PM fight for Pakistanis in Guantanamo?”

    I am sure he will fight for the terrorists criminals in Guantanamo before he fights to grant citizenship and asylum to the half a million Behari-Pakistanis in Bangladesh still stuck and rotting in squalid refugee camps in BD since 1971.Recommend

  • Hayat
    Feb 17, 2015 - 11:22AM

    @observer: PM will not bother at all on any of these issues. This government has failed to solve the basic problems in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Tahir H
    Feb 17, 2015 - 12:02PM

    Please please stop advocating cases of terrorists. Let’s not be driven by so called pro religion emotions. Why should such terrorists be supported – to join in human terror outfits already playing havoc to innocent lives and cause more damage to Pakistan.Recommend

  • raider
    Feb 17, 2015 - 1:41PM

    @Tahir H:
    at least revision of column is recommended for youRecommend

  • Feroz
    Feb 17, 2015 - 1:50PM

    Why the fascination for Guantanamo brother ? There are far more poor Pakistani citizens on death row in Saudi Arabia the forever friend, why not save them first rather than the terrorists.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Feb 17, 2015 - 3:20PM

    PM & his govt cannot do with the poor drug carrier who are beheaded by KSA, let alone USA…? Recommend

  • Careful reader
    Feb 17, 2015 - 6:35PM

    Stop advocating for rights for these hardened Gitmo criminals. Why should pakistan take them back ? So they can return to fighting ?Recommend

  • awais ahmad
    Feb 17, 2015 - 7:44PM

    PM is not interested.Recommend

  • woody
    Feb 17, 2015 - 7:50PM

    Given the choice of a Pakistani prison vs Guantanamo I wonder what the prisoners would choose? Much is made about the Guantanamo abuse but it’s common knowledge that torture is common practice in Pakistan – at least the American’s are investigating abuses in their system.Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Feb 17, 2015 - 8:00PM

    If most of the above missives are any example of Pakistan ethics and humanitarianism it is easy to see why Pakistan has so many problems. Recommend

  • UK
    Feb 18, 2015 - 3:07AM

    Well written article. Out of 779 only 6 actually face charges. And 7 were convicted in the military commissions after trial or plea bargain. An example of plea bargain is Omar Khadar of Canada. He was 15 at the time, and after 9 years of detention and torture, he was given an option to plead guilty for a lesser charge and serve 8 more years, most of which would be in a Canadian jail, or stay in Guantanamo indefinitely. So even including him, a total of 13 detainees (including under 18 children) face/or faced any charges. Detaining these people in US territory would have forced US law on them, and would have been hard to torture them, and also they would have access to lawyers. Keeping them out of reach of US law and any due process, was the reason to detain them in Cuba/Guantanamo. Here are some facts and figures.

    779 Total number of detainees who have been held at the Guantanamo Bay facility since September 11, 2001 attacks.

    600 of the 779 detainees, were released without charges, many after being detained for years.

    149 Total number of detainees remaining at Guantanamo.

    78 is the number of the 149 detainees who the US has approved for transfer to home or third countries but remain at Guantanamo.

    15 Number of children under age 18 who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo.

    9 Number of Guantanamo detainees who died while in custody, six by suspected suicide.

    7 Number of those convicted in the military commissions after trial or plea bargain.

    6 Of the 149 detainees that remain at Guantanamo only six face any formal charges.Recommend

  • Rishi
    Feb 18, 2015 - 3:29PM

    Tragic to read that. No words for suffering of poor innocent soul.Recommend

  • Aziz
    Feb 19, 2015 - 3:13AM

    No. The PM has more important things to do. Like the Metrobus and Motorways that provide positive and immediate returns to him and the army of scroungers around him. Recommend

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