Imran Khan is a member of the Pakistan National Assembly and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), the main opposition party in Pakistan.
Together with the people of Pakistan, the Americans have a rich history of peaceful protest when their government deviates from their real purpose. We remember the civil rights movement, the demonstrations of the Vietnam War, and the millions who are concerned about the important issues at the Mall in Washington.
Today, I am writing about another peaceful protest – a Pakistani citizen who has lost his rights, Guantanamo Bay prisoner Ahmed Rabbani.
Ahmed’s family originally came from the persecuted Burmese Rohingya; he is a rather modest taxi driver from Karachi, Pakistan. In 2002, he was sold to the CIA for a head money. They were told that he was someone called Hassan Ghul, but he insisted that this was a mistake.
In his investigation of the CIA torture program, the Intelligence Senate of the Senate confirmed this and Ahmed’s allegation that he had been tortured. In fact, he was tortured “without permission” – as if he were doing better – and held in CIA custody for more than 540 days before he was handed over to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He has now waited in vain for trial or trial for fifteen years.
Ahmed lost his patience four years ago and entered a hunger strike as a peaceful protest. This is, I think, the protest which the Americans will understand. For how can Ahmed otherwise oppose fifteen years of injustice by refusing to put something in his mouth?
Under President Barack Obama, the authorities forced hungry workers to supplement their food supplies. Whatever the rights and the injustice of it, at least Ahmed kept it alive. In a telephone conversation with his lawyer at the international human rights organization Reprieve, Ahmed has, however, explained how the Trump government decided on 20 September a new policy of compulsory food for starvation. Ahmed and other peaceful strikes would be pushed as close as possible to death, to force them to end the hunger strike, even if this means that their organs fail or die. Ahmed reports that the military also denied medical care.
Perhaps President Trump will be telling him that Ahmed is doing this: that he has entered hunger, and if he wants to die leave him. But one could also say that civil rights activists deserve to be beaten by the police because they do not respect the arbitrary laws of the time. Ahmed is a believing Muslim, and it would contradict his faith to take his own life. He wants no death but only justice – and it reflects his understandable despair for justice, which he was to last for so long.
The Pakistani government has not voted for Ahmed; I feel that I must. I urge all the moderate Americans to remember the small number of people languishing in Guantanamo Bay and insist on respect for the principles on which the United States is based – freedom, justice and freedom for all. It is our duty to ensure that Ahmed remains healthy and alive until he returns to his wife and son in Karachi.