He'd disappeared, gone out the door. With 96 hours left until his scheduled deportation, Fahim Kayani just wanted to be alone. Kayani was one of the 19 South Asian Muslim men arrested by the RCMP and accused of being an al Qaeda sleeper cell in a pre-dawn raid dubbed Project Thread last August.
But the allegations, which ranged from plotting to destroy the CN Tower and the Pickering nuclear plant to setting off a radioactive "dirty bomb," quickly crumbled. RCMP head Giuliano Zaccardelli has admitted there are no terrorist links. Of the Project Thread detainees who have been deported so far, all have been sent back for student visa violations.
The students were found to have committed immigration fraud after it was discovered the Scarborough-based business school they were attending was not a government-recognized institution - even though the student visas to attend the school were approved by the government in the first place.
Kayani's supporters are asking if this typical kind of violation justifies sending someone wrongly branded a terrorist back to Pakistan, where there is a threat of state persecution. Isn't Canada guilty of knowlingly putting Kayani in a situation where he is at risk for harassment and possibly torture?
The federal court judge who presided over this case didn't see it that way. He determined that Kayani's life or safety would not be imperilled if he were returned to his native country, even though some of the other deportees have already reported to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan being detained and questioned by Pakistani authorities.
Amina Sherazee, Kayani's lawyer, says, "The public security and anti-terrorism unit had an interest in capturing 19 Muslim men, to say to the U.S., the rest of the world and Canada, 'Look what we're doing in the war on terrorism. Look at how we're justifying the extraordinary powers that were given to us that violate the Charter of Rights and international human rights. But it's OK, because look at what we're doing to protect you. '"
In the days leading up to his deportation last Tuesday, March 23, Kayani and I spent a great deal of time together, hanging out, taking pictures, getting them developed, shopping, sightseeing, desperately seeking restaurants that served halal food - and looking for that elusive pair of black slacks that he says are impossible to find in Pakistan.
With friends he was calm and collected, happy and almost always smiling. He wanted most to enjoy his last days. He didn't want to bother others with his worries.
At the peace rally on Saturday, March 20, a few days before his departure, Kayani delivered a stirring plea for help. He was wowed by the thousands in the crowd, many of whom had come to show their support.
Monday afternoon Kayani was resolved to visit the CN Tower, one the "targets" he had allegedly plotted against. He stood there on the observation deck looking north at the city and the country he was about to be kicked out of. He wasn't angry, he wasn't bitter. He was amazed by the view.
That afternoon, while he was out enjoying his last day in Canada, Kayani received two telephone messages from Immigration officials.
The authorities had been alarmed by a sit-in some of his backers held at Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Judy Sgro's constituency office, one last attempt to pressure the government to overturn its decision.
Kayani called early Tuesday morning, and the authorities instructed him to report at 11 am to the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre (GTEC). Kayani complied, believing the meeting was to discuss his deportation later that day. However, GTEC took Kayani into custody, processed him, then put him on a 10 pm flight to Islamabad.
His supporters see the move as a final humiliation, typical of Immigration Canada's conduct from day one. There would be no chance to say goodbye. Tsering Nanglu, spokesperson for both Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Border Service Agency, insists that Kayani's detention was just part of regular deportation procedures.
My mind floated back to the Saturday Kayani crashed at my place. Just before heading off to bed, he said he needed to offer a prayer. Kneeling on a blanket facing Mecca, we sheepishly had to admit to each other that we hadn't the faintest clue about how to do the azzan (the call to prayer) or how to lead the prayer.
So we prayed separately but together, two Muslim men from different sides of the world praying to God that the world doesn't have to be this way, this messed up.