Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Life With The Taliban: An Excerpt

Written by CP Editor, Caged Prisoners,  Sunday, 12 December 2010
An excerpt from the fascinating autobiography of former Taliban government spokesman and ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef who spent four years imprisoned in Guantanamo

When we arrived in Peshawar I was taken to a lavishly-fitted office. A Pakistani flag stood on the desk, and a picture of Mohammad Ali Jinnah hung at the back of the room. A Pashtun man was sitting behind the desk. He got up, introduced himself and welcomed me. His head was shaved—seemingly his only feature of note—and he was of an average size and weight. He walked over to me and said that he was the head of the bureau. I was in the devil’s workshop, the regional head office of the ISI.

He told me I was a close friend—a guest—and one that they cared about a great deal. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, since it was pretty clear that I was dear to them only because they could get a good sum of money for me when they sold me. Their trade was people; just as with goats, the higher the price for the goat, the happier the owner. In the twenty-first century there aren’t many places left where you can still buy and sell people, but Pakistan remains a hub for this trade. I prayed after dinner with the ISI officer, and then was brought to a holding-cell for detainees. The room was decent, with a gas heater, electricity and a toilet. I was given food and drink—even a copy of the Holy Qur’an for recitation—as well as a notebook and pen. The guard posted at the door was very helpful, and he gave me whatever I requested during the night.
 
I wasn’t questioned or interviewed while being held in Peshawar. Only one man, who didn’t speak Pashtu and whose Urdu I couldn’t understand came every day to ask the same question over and over again: what is going to happen? My answer was the same each time he asked me. “Almighty God knows, and he will decide my fate. Everything that happens is bound to his will”.
 
All of the officials who visited me while I was detained in Peshawar treated me with respect. But none of them really spoke to me. They would look at me in silence but their faces spoke clearer than words could, humbled by pity and with tears gathering in their eyes. Finally, after days in my cell, a man came, tears flowing down his cheeks. He fainted as his grief and shame overcame him. He was the last person I saw in that room. I never learnt his name, but soon after—perhaps four hours after he left—I was handed over to the Americans.
 
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