Saifullah Paracha has been held in Guantanamo Bay since 2004, more than a year after he was arrested by US agents while on his way to a business meeting in Thailand. He is suffering severe and life threatening health problems that his American captors refuse to provide appropriate treatment for.
Saifullah was born in 1947 in Mangowal, Pakistan, where he grew up. At the age of 24, Saifullah moved to the USA to study at the New York Institute of Technology. In New York, he met his wife, Farhat, who is also a citizen of Pakistan, with whom he had four children.
Over the next several years, Saifullah established several successful businesses, living in New York with his family as a law-abiding and tax paying permanent resident. The family returned to Pakistan in the mid-1980s where Saifullah started a business exporting clothes to the US, as well as a television production company. As Chief Executive of International Merchandise Ltd., Saifullah, together with his American Jewish partner, exported millions of dollars of textiles and clothing from Pakistan to New York each year.
On his way to a business meeting in 2003, Saifullah’s life was turned upside down. On his arrival at Bangkok airport, he was seized by US agents. His worried family had no idea where he was for more than a month, until news of his arrest appeared in the US media.
He was taken to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he spent more than a year in solitary confinement as he was quizzed over alleged links to senior Al-Qaeda figures, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay.
Saifullah denies any connection to terrorism. He is faultlessly polite to his interrogators, cooperating in every way and offering full and frank answers to their endless questions.
Since arriving in US custody, Saifullah’s health has been devastated. He has suffered a heart attack, and still suffers debilitating chest pains. He is diabetic, and suffers from an enlarged prostate.
The military have refused to give him the appropriate treatment. He needs possible open heart surgery, but the army insist that he is chained to the bed throughout the procedure. Doctors warn that this is unsafe because patients need to be able to exercise during the recovery period.
He has requested to be moved to a proper medical facility, but the United States government has refused, instead insisting that he continues his detention in a cell measuring nine feet by six under the constant glare of neon lights.
As a successful businessman and dedicated family man in his sixties, Saifullah Paracha should be thinking about retirement, enjoying the societies in Pakistan and the USA to which he contributed so much. Instead, he languishes in a prison cell, and if he is not given the assistance he requires, there is a possibility he will never leave to enjoy the benefits of wealth and family that he spent his lifetime working for.