Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


From Karachi to Guantanamo

Updated Sep 10, 2013 07:55am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Ahmed Rabbani's wife, 25-year-old Fawzia and their 11-year-old son, Jawad, look at his letters. — Photo by  writer
Ahmed Rabbani's wife, 25-year-old Fawzia and their 11-year-old son, Jawad, look at his letters. — Photo by writer

KARACHI: Oblivious to the aftershocks of the Sept 11 attacks that left the world reeling from it, Fawzia, the 14-year-old bride of Mohammed Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani, was leading a blissful marital life. Little did she know it was soon going to end when on the night of Sept 10, 2002, just a month into their marriage, her husband was whisked away from their home in Bahadurabad by authorities.

This Sept 10, he will have gone 11 years.

It was six years later that she found that he was among the 779 incarcerated in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay detention camp. “I had no idea what or where Cuba was; I had never even heard of it,” says Fawzia, whose life has since been on hold.

“It was midnight when the police raided our home, asked him questions in between kicks and punches and then took Ahmad away,” she recalls. “My life has not been the same since that night,” her voice a mere whisper, recalling the horror. “I was just 14 and pregnant. They slapped me in the face; I had never felt so humiliated and utterly violated!”

“All I knew was that he was a taxi driver; he went in search of work in the morning and came home in the evening like most men do!” she told Dawn. “The way he led his life, in the one month I was with him, gave me no indication whatsoever that he had any criminal intent. They can say anything about him, but I know one thing, my husband is not a terrorist!” she adds resolutely.

According to his file made public by the US Department of Defence, Ahmad Rabbani, trained in combat, is of Burmese decent. He was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for 23 years before coming to Pakistan in 1991.

And this is all Fawzia knows about her husband. She denies any knowledge of him being trained in 1994 in a militant camp in Khost for seven months and then to the Khaldan Training camp for two months, or that he had been imprisoned in Pakistan for two years — 1995-96 — or that in 1997, he met Osama bin Laden and became a travel facilitator for Al Qaeda. According to his file, he worked directly for Al Qaeda operational planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

The Pakistani government has insisted that of the over 600 people arrested on Pakistani soil and handed over to American authorities over the years, none is of Pakistani origin.

However, Reprieve, a legal assistance and advocacy group that is representing more than a dozen of the Guantanamo prisoners, rejects US assertions. “They say the same about scores of prisoners. There’s no evidence that he ever met Bin Laden, and no evidence that he was ever a terrorist. In 10 years, the US has never seen fit to charge him with any crime… they just make up what is simply defamation. And most of the time, the basis even for this malicious gossip is either something tortured out of the prisoner, or false statements made by others who have been promised a reward for their lies,” says Sultana Noon of Reprieve.

According to Reprieve, Ahmad Rabbani told his lawyers in 2009 that he was a taxi driver and because he knew the Arabic language, he would pick and drop many Arab passengers to and from the airport and through word of mouth, he managed to find many Arab passengers. He was never more than a taxi driver and occasional cook, and if he ever drove members of the Arab mujahedeen for the most part he was unaware of it. Regardless, neither he nor most others thought there was anything wrong with giving them a ride, as Pakistan supported them and there were organizations, schools and even newspapers promoting the mujahedeen cause. He said during all this time he never committed any violation of Pakistani law. While Fawzia’s brave demeanour reflects her resilience, it was the quiver in her voice that gave away her anguish. “Does anyone even care what it is like to have your home fall apart in a blink?” she asks and then says: “My father-in-law died waiting for his sons’ return [a brother of Ahmad Rabbani, Abdul Rabbani, is also in Guantanamo]; he was in so much grief, he suffered a heart attack on the prayer mat and died!” she adds.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who is also the director of Reprieve, says unfortunately, the people of Pakistan have “not protested enough” on behalf of the prisoners in Guantanamo. With the result, he says, the “Pakistan government has not seen it as sufficiently important an issue to take up forcefully with the US.”

Fawzia and her 11-year-old son, Jawad, who was born later and has never been held by his father, are a living testimony of what the consequences of the US policy of indefinite detention can be.

Today, of the 164 men captive in Guantanamo, six are Pakistanis, including him and his brother Abdul Rabbani, Saifullah Paracha, Ammar al Baloch, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Majid Khan (who recently entered a plea deal). Of all those still languishing, 84 have been cleared for release, but remain held in the prison because Barack Obama has still not kept his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison that he signed on his first full day in office.

Had it not been for her brothers’ and her mother’s untiring support, Fawzia, who has since been living with her widowed mother in a one-room apartment in Korangi, says her life would have been shattered.

Over the years, her husband suggested her to remarry. But she cannot even think about that. “I don’t think I can find another husband like Ahmad,” she says, adding, “Jawad is a carbon copy of his father”.

According to her, Ahmad craves for things we take for granted — sky, sunlight and fresh air. “What keeps him from going insane is religion,” she says. “During his incarceration, he memorised the Quran and knows its meaning. At 43, Ahmad Rabbani, who has never been on trial or charged, is among the 35 men who continue to be on hunger strike that started in February this year. He is also among the 31 who are being force-fed according to official data.

“I am 118lbs now; I can do more. In 2005, I struck and got down to 103 lbs. I was never force-fed back then, though, as I broke the strike in Ramadan. I am not doing it this time. There’s not much left of me.” These words, shared with Dawn by Reprieve, clearly reflect what it feels to remain in a legal limbo for so many years.“The actual number is higher than what the officials declare,” says Sultana Noon, of Reprieve. “At its peak in July, the number had soared to 106,” she adds.

“Bleeding”, “vomiting”, “a quarter or even a third” of bodyweight lost, “torture” is how many have described their experience of being force-fed at the hands of the US officials, says a report published by Reprieve in July, based on testimonies of the inmates.

Mr Smith considers force feeding a “terrible abuse” not just of the prisoners but of medical professionals’ ethics. He explains that under the 1975 Tokyo Declaration a competent peaceful protester must be permitted to make a rational decision to go without food.

Fighting against hope, Fawzia, and her son’s story are a reminder of the cruel consequences of denying the detainees normal legal recourse.

Comments (79) Closed

Ahmad Sep 10, 2013 09:10am

"Blissful marital life." A 14 years old girl with a 30 years old man?

Ali Sep 10, 2013 10:01am

Shame on US for holding these people without any trial and without any proof of involvement in any criminal act and shame on Pakistani Government for not taking up their case with US administration.

Parivel Sep 10, 2013 10:53am

Police slapped on my when I was 14 day pregnant. I really felt the pain of that sister. Non sense peoples commits crime & Innocence family members pays the price. Ridicules really. I have no problem to even say extra ordinary believing of religious things are causing such disasters. let us be human first & Report to the respective area legitimate governments. Not to any religions or gods. No One is bigger then the LAW OF LAND. (Including the GOD)

Iqbal Sep 10, 2013 11:05am

This is the first time I am seeing Dawn publishing "the other side of the story". Should publish more of them. Gives the readers full picture and lets them decide for themselves.

mahani Sep 10, 2013 11:08am

This girl was 14 years old when she was married and pregnant?? Thats child abuse. Arent there any laws against child brides in Pakistan?

malik Sep 10, 2013 11:24am

I am sick and tired of these 'mullas-turned-terrorists'. And marrying a 14 year old is child abuse.

alamgirian Sep 10, 2013 11:42am

thank you dawn for highlighting the plight of an innocent wife and a child, indeed the people have forgotten the pain and suffering of poor people languishing in Gitmo, may they have Justice, amen

Mir Taqi Sep 10, 2013 11:55am

Every prisoner deserves a fair trial. This is cruelty and extreme injustice keeping people in captivity without trial.

human Sep 10, 2013 01:25pm

Terrorists has no human or moral rights

ramesh Sep 10, 2013 01:36pm

the only fault s the man look like a terriost

KS Sep 10, 2013 01:44pm

I sense disgust in reading the introduction "Fawzia, the 14-year-old bride of Mohammed Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani, was leading a blissful marital life".....what an irony !!!

Shaikh Mohommd Sep 10, 2013 02:11pm

It is the duty of Pakistan Government to demand immediate release and compensation from USA for imprisoning innocent Pakistanis. I urge Nawaz Sharif to take up the case on a high level and demand that all Pakistanis be released from Gautanamo Bay Prison.

Hina Sep 10, 2013 02:18pm

It is government of Pakistan who is responsible to handover innocents for dollars.

Asif Sep 10, 2013 02:28pm

Thanks to Mr. Pervez Musharraf, that lots of innocents people are sent to this living hell. I hope he will pay for it in this world and hereafter. Same time we should continue pressure on current government to take some concrete action and make sure these people come back home.

Ali Z Sep 10, 2013 02:34pm

@Ahmad: why have you started moaning & whining about the age difference? if his wife is still happy & still waiting for him. Stop poking your nose in other people's business

gangadin Sep 10, 2013 02:47pm

A Burmese origin, born in Saudi Arabia, comes to Pakistan and marries a woman? How? This is just one example of how these illegals have invaded our land. Arrested by Pakistani authorities and handed over to US. Before you start blaming the US, don't you think that the arresting authorities owe her an explanation?

Gamer Sep 10, 2013 02:59pm

@Ahmad: Exactly i can hardly believe the decision system on this child who was naive enough to marry a 30 year old and getting a child pregnant.No wonder she would believe whatever he told her.4

AHA Sep 10, 2013 02:59pm

@Ahmad: Blissful indeed. Ignorance is a bliss, isn't it.

AHA Sep 10, 2013 03:13pm

USA is the biggest bully in the world. What what about the Pakistan agencies. Corrupt to the core. They picked up a man just because he could speak Arabic and was able to serve Arab clients. Shame on us.

Aussie Sep 10, 2013 03:22pm

14 year old bride.........hmmmm .This child molester deserves to be behind bars even if he is not a terrorist.

observer Sep 10, 2013 03:24pm

He was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for 23 years before coming to Pakistan in 1991.

If he was 23 in 1991.

Then he was 34 in 2002.

And she was all of 14.

Cradle snatching anyone?

Imran Sep 10, 2013 03:32pm

The question is " Why the intelligence are still keeping him there???" "What can they get by keeping this man there?" Are they stupid to keep some one irrelevant for so long?

Indian Sep 10, 2013 03:39pm

@Ahmad: and pregnant at 14. Sad affairs :(

JohnDoe Sep 10, 2013 03:47pm

Have you forgotten 9/11, or are you in favour of what happened in New York and Pentagon? They are not innocent, they are terrorists who either took part of the operation, financed it, or in an other way were involved in the attacks. When something like that happens, there will be radical counter-terrorism operations and that's way this "good man" is in Guantanamo prison. The the fact that he married a 14 year old girl, that shows sexual perversion, in its finest way.

Mohammad Rashid Sep 10, 2013 03:49pm

As a nation and as an individual we are all responsible and this is just a beginning the worst still to come when each an everyone will suffer with unbearable punishment from All mighty Allah accept those who repent , so do it now before it's too late.....

Imran Sep 10, 2013 04:17pm

where are the liberals? The die hard supporters of everything west does. Where are they?

khanm Sep 10, 2013 04:19pm

@Ali: Same on our government handing over these people without due process of law in our own county

Mia Sep 10, 2013 04:46pm

Picture speaks for itself!

Sonal Sep 10, 2013 04:54pm

It's obviously not clear whether he is guilty or not, but one thing is clear - there's more value in this world for a white man versus a brown or black or yellow.

Omer Sep 10, 2013 05:25pm

Yeah and you believed their story you should also have asked them only 1 question what do they think about Osama and ayman and based on their reply the truth would have come to fore.

Nauman Sep 10, 2013 05:29pm

May be if we have a Fair Judicial system, no one would dare picking up Pakistanis.

A. Ahmad Sep 10, 2013 05:40pm

@Ahmad: had it been a western couple; the age would've never been in question...because after all isn't it them who stated "Love knows no limits"?

Ghumman Sep 10, 2013 06:10pm

@Ahmad: Whats the problem with you when they are happy, mind your business

a Sep 10, 2013 06:11pm

Thank you dawn for FINALLY printing an unbiased article. More people should be made aware of such issues. We as Pakistanis should be ashamed of all this.

Yousaf Sep 10, 2013 06:59pm

He should have gone to jail for marrying a 13 year old.

Lala Sep 10, 2013 07:22pm

It is a first for this liberal paper and it is appreciated to see th efacts on th eother side of the picture. It is th eduty of Pakistani media to bring about facts in open instead on dwelling on articles on twisting history.


expaki Sep 10, 2013 07:24pm

"BLISSFUL LIFE" life span of one month with pregnancy, Arabs knew and hired him, because of "WORD OF MOUTH" This woman expects Pakistani nation to adopt him as "QAUM KA BAITAA."

prapur Sep 10, 2013 07:30pm

How come fourteen year old was married & became pregnant too? Is there any minimum age for girls marriage? What about her education? What kind of Pakistan societies and nation it is? How old her husband is? Is child marriage is not a crime in Pakistan?

Abbastoronto Sep 10, 2013 07:45pm

The face, the beard, the look. He is a terrorist if there was one.

Adnan Sep 10, 2013 08:13pm


Please ask your respectable grandmother about her age when she got married was and still is a norm in many countries / religions...Not just in Islam.

jibran Sep 10, 2013 08:55pm

Gitmo is far far better than the class one Pakistani jail, the stories planted by the rightist to the contrary notwithstanding.

joe Sep 10, 2013 09:38pm

@Ahmad: Thats a Sex crime in USA, 14 year old girls with a 30 year male is a crime. She was a minor at that time when she was only 14, that time she should be going to school finishing collage becoming a Doctor, lawyer, engineer etc a valuable to society. The parents need to come out Stone age thinking. these girls are your little daughters like flowers you need to nourish them with love and affection, not getting rid of them giving to some 30 year old ugly men. who molested them. God Bless Pakistan and South Asia.

Haroon Choudhry Sep 10, 2013 09:49pm

Terrorists are being made Heros and a foreign Terrorist is being promoted.

Aimal Sep 10, 2013 09:54pm

The brave lady Fauzia is 25 and her son is 11. Did Ahmad marry a minor and made her pregnant while she was a little more than a child?

Touseef Sep 10, 2013 09:54pm

@Ahmad: Do you see her complaining and In any part of the civilized world ages don't matter when they get married, then if she wants to be with her husband even when he is insisting on her moving on then you should grow up.

gulbaz mushtaq Sep 10, 2013 10:08pm

Dawn, what happened to you?? This is not your policy to highlight such issues. I think she was 14 year old married, this is what you actually tried to impliedly convey???

Fahad Sep 10, 2013 10:46pm

Great..... All such criminals deserve to be in GITMO !!

humanity_crying Sep 10, 2013 11:25pm

@Ahmad: I am pretty sure the girl has no idea what does blissful means then.....

Bash Sep 11, 2013 01:04am

@JohnDoe: if he is not innocent, why he hasn't been charged?

mohbbat Sep 11, 2013 01:14am

@a: why ashamed? Pakistan caught terrorists and gave it to its friend US for justice, and also got money for it. Its a win win situation. US getting Pak rid of terrorists and also paying money.

Naveed Sep 11, 2013 01:50am

Where in Islam says you have to wear gloves and look like a bat ?

John Sep 11, 2013 02:50am

The USA are biased people, who are hell bent on torturing innocent muslims.....

fida sayani Sep 11, 2013 03:39am

All those who have ruled Pakistan in the last 12 years are criminals. They have no shame. They have let their citizens languish in American prisons for 12 years without raising a plea for their freedom.

newman Sep 11, 2013 05:21am

@Sonal: And there is more value for 1 brown man in this world than a brown woman or a dozen...

ahmed Sep 11, 2013 05:43am

Justice will be served to all on the day of judgment. feel sorry for the woman and the child. May Allah haver mercy on this and all victim of 9-11. and bring about truth to the world once and for all.

sms Sep 11, 2013 08:09am

@JohnDoe: you are a goof and naive, what about the fact that every prisoner deserves a fair trial?

Sam Sep 11, 2013 08:47am

@Nauman: Do you think the US has a FAIR Judicial System? I Consider it like any other system in the world. If you have Money you can buy Justice. No money, will languish in court system for years and years. What is shown on TV and News I Just a Fa

asim Sep 11, 2013 08:52am

@Indian: common thing in west. At least they were married.

M5 Sep 11, 2013 10:21am

@JohnDoe: You know the US government would love to prosecute these innocent people if they could. Keeping them in Guantanamo without any trial is a proof that they are innocent.

You may not know that the Northern Alliance war lords sold a lot of innocent people to US (obtaining hundreds of thousand of dollars) depicting them as Taliban, Al-Qaida or their supporters.

In this case the corrupt government of Pervez Musharraf did the same to this person and to hundreds of like him including Dr. Aafia Siddique.

Pakistani people need to wake up and demand release of their prisoners languishing in Guantanamo or the Afghan Ghettos. May Allah help these people who have suffered so much in the name of war on terror.

May Allah bring peace to this world. Ameen!

Pir Madad Ali Shah Sep 11, 2013 10:39am

Article raises many questions. 1. He was born in Saudi Arabia, of Burmese orgin, how come he is Pakistani citizen? He was arrested before TWICE by Pak authorities,, hmm. why he was not deported. Why USA has not brought any legal cases and tried in the court of law? How all of a sudden , an innocent taxi driver picked up in middle of a night .. why police knows about innocent taxi men? If the story of the 14 year old bridge is correct. Why law enforcement official slap a visible pregnant underage girl? That team of official should be punished for that act..for sure.. Did Musharaaf collect any "action fee" kicks surchage, loyaly commission, good boy bonus etc? Suo Muto Please

Ahmad Sep 11, 2013 10:58am

@Mia: What do you mean?

Usama Saleh Sep 11, 2013 11:01am

I am shocked that this is published in DAWN news.... So finally Pakistani Media is coming toward the truth and getting mature.... Good work Dawn, show the full picture to the world.

Ahmad Sep 11, 2013 11:02am

@JohnDoe: How many people in high offices in US who could have prevented the attacks have been convicted?

Ahmad Sep 11, 2013 11:07am

@Mir Taqi: ''National security needs'' - play the card and American will accept anything their govt. does.

khan Sep 11, 2013 12:46pm

its astonishing that instead of lamenting the absence of rule of law..people are poking their noses on the age difference of the couple...When she is happy, people dont have the right to accuse her husband..and call him child molester....

mahani Sep 11, 2013 02:52pm

@Ahmed and @Adnan people used to do a lot of things in our grandparents day that we dont do now as we know better. If you want to live in that time then what are you doing using the internet? Am sure your grandma did not use it in her day.

Getting young 13-14 year old girls who are basically kids married off to grown men in their 30s is just cruel. There are plenty of girls in their late teens or early 20s available for marriage. Why cant they marry them? And lastly would you consider your little girl to be married to a 40 year old man? Anyone with half a brain would not.

And @Touseef what do you mean by "Do you see her complaining.." she was a kid when she was married off. She does not know any better. And yes it is and should be everyones business to not let such atrocities go unnoticed. Marrying a child is wrong and anyone who choose to marry a kid is wrong too and we need to point fingers at them.

Human Sep 11, 2013 03:03pm

I am sorry for the plight of people who are in Cuba or US Jails without Trail... Can we think of many fishermen getting trap in blowing wind and getting landed at Pakistan Jails. Can someone think of plight of their respective family's too.. We should start looking people as it is without discriminating their religion and geographical location. Please check Pakistan Jail database and find-out how many are suffering without food and trails from different country's. Let us all be human being first.

Sami Sep 11, 2013 03:14pm

Yeah....put a person behind bars...kill his self respect and then comment that it is better? He married someone out of his own choice. Let's not divert the discussion.

Sonal Sep 11, 2013 05:19pm

I like how the whole discussion in the comments is focused on cradle snatching, when that wasn't the point of the article.

Maybe he needed to be punished for marrying a 14 year old, but being force fed and treated this way without even first being proven guilty is a bit much.

expaki Sep 11, 2013 09:38pm

@joe: you are right, however over production, without any control, creates mouths to be fed. MOUTH PRODUCERS have religious examples as their DEFENCE to DO MORE. Therefore anyone thinking of OBJECTING, Thinks THRICE of his being implicated - booked under a very UNIQUE law called BLASPHEMY. Praise Allah.

Kumar Sep 12, 2013 10:35am

When an innocent American/British/Indian/Jew is killed by bomb, gun, beheaded all say infidel got justice but when the person trying to do this is caught, he is innocent.

Ali Sep 12, 2013 10:43am

@Usama Saleh: REALLY???? Mr. Usama defending a recruit of Taliban. I am not amazed

Kumar Sep 12, 2013 10:45am

What about the pain she bears for marrying a 34 years at the tender age of 14. There must be so many who have to go through it, or even older ones.

A Sep 12, 2013 03:05pm

@malik: It is not child abuse

Humanity Sep 12, 2013 05:11pm

@Human: Isn't it crazy to punish someone on someone else's mistake? If Pakistan arrests the fishermen what wrong has Ahmed Rabbani done to them? What is his involvement?

About the article: even if he was guilty of giving rides to the Arab Mujahideen which law allows US to be this much inhumane to the accused ones?

Humanity Sep 12, 2013 05:10pm

@Aussie: He should be behind the bars but shouldn't be given a life worse than death. He was nice to his wife, treated her well-enough that she still wants to keep his name with her.

AJ Sep 12, 2013 05:25pm

@Sonal: You just demonstrated the example written in this article His " lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who is also the director of Reprieve, says unfortunately, the people of Pakistan have

Dr. Noor Sep 12, 2013 07:44pm

@Aussie: I have come across so many american Teenage girls (as young as 11) who were pregnant, so what are your thought about those... I do not see any problem in under-18 marriage if she has achieved her puberty

humanity_crying Sep 12, 2013 08:10pm

@Naveed: Bravo man!!I actually thought of writing it but then i realize "religious sentiments" of people might get hurt.