Published On: Sun, Sep 16th, 2018

Rabbani: I’ve been in #Guantanamo Bay prison for 14 years. #Pakistan Imran Khan should tell #Trump to free me.

After 14 years as a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, hope is not easy to come by, and harder still to hold on to. So when Imran Khan was elected prime minister of my country, Pakistan, I filed the news away, and resolved not to think of it too often. It sustained me, whenever hopelessness threatened to overwhelm me.

As a candidate, he wrote about my plight, telling the world what the U.S. Congress knows to be true: I am a taxi driver from Karachi, the victim of a case of mistaken identity, tortured for years by the CIA and held prisoner indefinitely because the US Government cannot admit its mistake.

Now I hear that Prime Minister Khan will skip the United Nations General Assembly, which began last week in New York, to devote his attention to pressing matters at home. I am accustomed to setbacks — I remember the expectation when President Barack Obama ordered that the prison be closed, nine years ago — but I admit that while I understand Pakistan must be his priority, I had hoped Khan would take the opportunity to tell President Donald Trump what a “rotten deal” the United States gets from keeping me here, and press for my release.

Trump continues to defame me as a “terrorist” and “unlawful enemy combatant” in order to look tough and excite his supporters. In truth, the United States long since released most of the people who were actually part of the Afghanistan War — those who fought in Jengi Castle, those who fought in Tora Bora, Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguards, his private driver and his cook. They have all gone home.

The Taliban minister of defense was sent back to his country, though he actually directed the war; with him went the head of the Taliban intelligence, along with their chief spokesman. Omar Khadr was accused of killing an American soldier — so he was flown to Toronto where the Canadians paid him $8 million in compensation. Ahmed al Darbi was convicted of planning an operation — he too went home.

I am a taxi driver from Karachi, 500 miles from the Afghan border. Yet here I remain, in a group of 40 forgotten men, many of them “nobodies” like myself. Most of us have never been charged with a crime. In July, the U.S. government’s lawyer said it can keep us here for a hundred years if it chooses to, provided the “conflict” — a war we did not fight in and that can never be won or lost — lasts that long.

I have tried to do whatever they asked. They told me to stop my hunger strike, and I abandoned my protest. They insisted that we should apologize for being members of mujahedin, so I apologized — even when I had nothing to do with such violence. They told me to drop my demand that my CIA torturers should be punished — so I ceased my cry for justice.

In one of Prime Minister Khan’s first statements in office, he said: “With the United States, we want to have a mutually beneficial relationship … up until now, that has been one way.” The release of prisoners has, indeed, been a one way street — or a direct flight that only goes to Washington, never back to Islamabad. In 2011, Raymond Davis, a contractor with the CIA, murdered two men in Lahore. After the United States reportedly paid $2.4 million to the families of the victims, he went home. In April of this year, Col. Joseph E. Hall ran a red light in Islamabad, crashing into a motorcycle and killing a passenger. He was soon on a plane back to America.

Meanwhile I exist in an eternal nightmare, held in a steel cell, guarded by thousands of soldiers. It costs U.S. taxpayers $11 million a year to keep me here, and $11 million more for each of the other prisoners. All I want is to go home to my wife and son, and return to work so I may support them.

I can only hope that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Quereshi, will speak as plainly as his boss when he addresses the United Nations and in meetings with U.S. politicians. Nothing is gained by keeping me here. Releasing me would signal that, under new leadership, our countries are ready to make a fresh start.

Rabbani is a taxi driver from Karachi, Pakistan, who has been detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years. The op-ed is based on qnotes recorded by Rabbani’s lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith.

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