Pakistan: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Case – A Veiled Mystery

“It is my judgment that Dr Siddiqui is sentenced to a period of incarceration of 86 years,” (for the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan) said Judge Richard Berman, US District Court Judge of a Federal Court in Manhattan on Sept. 23 2010. Pakistani citizen Dr. Aafia Siddiqui denounced the trial saying “(an appeal would be) a waste of time. I appeal to God.”

As soon as the court verdict was broadcast on media, anger mounted among the Pakistani citizens and thousands of people came out on streets protesting against the 86-year sentence of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Within few minutes after the ruling was announced, Siddiqui’s sister Fauzia addressed a press conference along with her mother, where she criticized the Pakistan government for not fulfilling their promises to bring Siddiqui back.

As a result of public outcry against the sentence, Pakistan government came under duress at home and the Interior Minister Rehman Malik has requested USA to repatriate Dr Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan.

Composite picture of Aafia Siddiqui from her wanted poster at the FBI Website. Image via Wikipedia.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, also known as the Ghost of Bagram or Prisoner 650, has been haunting the memories of thousands of Pakistanis ever since her mysterious absence was noticed by media in 2007. Siddiqui did her PhD in genetics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in USA. In March 2003, she mysteriously vanished from Karachi along with her three children. In fact it was only after British prisoner Moazzam Begg mentioned her in his book “The Enemy Combatant”, Human Rights Organizations and activists across the world took notice. On July 6, 2008 British journalist Yvonne Ridley, called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention center in Afghanistan, for over four years.

According to reports, 12-year old Ahmed (Dr Aafia’s son) was handed over to his aunt Fauzia Siddiqui in September 2008 after years of detention in a US military base in Afghanistan. Later on, media reported that a little girl named Fatima, was dropped off in front of the home of Siddiqui’s sister and the girl’s DNA matched that of Ahmed (Dr Aafia’s son). Meanwhile, a Pakistani Senator and chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior, Senator Talha Mehmood, “slammed the US for keeping the child in a military jail in a cold, dark room for seven years.”

After the return of two of her children, Aafia’s family began to hope that she will also return soon and continued the contacts with Pakistan government in order to ensure Aafia’s safety. But all their hopes ended in ashes with the news of Aafia’s imprisonment of 86 years.

Pakistani media and bloggers have a mixed reaction on this issue, some claiming that Aafia has been a subject of injustice while others view this incident as a lesson to learn the values of social justice.

Shaukat Hamdani writes at Express Blog:

“Regardless of what went on in the international media, it should be made clear that Dr Aafia has never been charged with terrorism. Rather, she is charged with snatching a US warrant officer’s rifle in mid -2008 while she was detained for questioning in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and firing it at FBI agents and military personnel. However, none of the personnel were hit. Hence the nickname given to her by the American media ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ was totally uncalled for and must have influenced the jury. What is sad is that being such a core ally of the United States in the war against terror, our government has been able to achieve nothing in this regard, and the treatment a Pakistani citizen has received is just appalling.”

Faisal Kapadia writes:

Nobody can deny that the way she was treated in Bagram was despicable but whether the Pakistan government can actually secure the release of an individual who has been tried and convicted by a U.S court is the stuff of hilarity. Especially if the person concerned, is a U.S national.

Beenish Ahmed mentions some points to ponder:

“Siddiqui’s case has compelled some Pakistanis to look beyond social judgments to issues of social justice. Siddiqui’s personal story aside, the curious circumstances of her arrest and the gaping holes in the evidence withheld as classified has become a rallying point for anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.”

Views of the western writers are equally significant in this issue who are debating on the justice system of US courts in view of the alleged crimes of Aafia Siddiqui and the nature of her punishment.

According to Stephen Lendman’s report:

“Her case is one of America's most egregious examples of horrific abuse and injustice, climaxed by her virtual life sentence for an alleged crime she never committed.”

On Houston Criminal Lawyer, John Floyd and Billy Sinclair tells that the unusually long sentence is greater than necessary, cruel and unusual:

“The 86-year sentence imposed upon her by Judge Berman is just an unwarranted and cruel continuation of that torture..It is shameful, and her case will remain blight on our criminal justice system and the reputation of the United States throughout the world community until she is released.”

A poster from Dr. Aafia's site

Yvonne Ridley writes in a recent post at titled “Aafia Today, U.S. Citizens Tomorrow”:

The Pakistani government now needs to demand the repatriation of Aafia with immediate effect. The U.S. needs to shut up, back down, and show some humility by returning the Daughter of Pakistan.

And with a bit of luck, innocent U.S. citizens travelling abroad will not get caught up in the fallout of this violation of international law and human rights.

The case of Dr. Aafia has been mysterious from the very beginning but as a citizen or a state if we continue to overlook such cases, it will only ascend the list of missing persons in Pakistan and give rise to chaos in the society.


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