Dr. Affia’s ordeal and Pakistani prisoners abroad

In an unexpected move, Dr. Aafia’s elder sister met her after two decades of imprisonment at the infamous FMC Carswell prison in the United States where she is detained over the last several years. According to the reports, British attorney Clive Stafford Smith accompanied Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui during the meeting while Pakistani lawmaker Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan is next in line to visit Aafia Siddiqui in the coming days. Both sisters met each other after 20 years and their meeting spanned over two and a half hours. Their meeting took place in a room separated by a thick glass wall, while Dr. Fauzia was neither allowed to touch her sister nor she was permitted to show her the pictures of Aafia’s children and other family members.

The sad story of the Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui spanned over the past two decades while the role played by the Pakistani State and its Institutions during her arrest and afterward was highly regrettable throughout the past. The suspicions and doubts surround the whole story of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who lived in the United States for over a decade and completed his Ph.D. study. Although, the FBI thoroughly surveilled her and had a complete analysis of her activities, communication, and nexus with any terror or extremist group but could not arrest her in the United States because of a lack of solid evidence/ proof until then. There had been reports regarding her apprehension by Pakistani authorities and later by the Afghan Police in 2008. She was accused of involvement in terrorism and attempting to attack American soldiers at the Bagram Airbase in Kabul. A US Court in Manhattan, New York convicted her of a crime and awarded 86 years imprisonment, which she was serving at FMC Carswell jail in Texas. What so ever the case/ charges might be, after all, Aafia was a Pakistani citizen, and her case had been a matter of great embarrassment and shame for the Pakistani nation. Ironically, such type of prosecution and indictment had never been witnessed by the world from the American juries who often announce life imprisonment for the suspects involved in mass shootings at schools and other public places. Although, there had been various occasions, diplomatic and legal provisions available to the Pakistani government to ensure a fair trial for her or at least bring its citizen back to the country that was missed by the successive governments in the past. Historically, Pakistan handed over Raymond Davis, a proven assassin who killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight, to the US government after paying his diyat/ compensation from the national exchequer, but did nothing in Aafia’s case, because, Pakistani Baboos at Foreign Office and other institutions gave importance to foreign laws and their comfort instead of national interest/prestige.

A lot had been written and said regarding the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui over the past two decades in local and foreign media, while the bulk of the story had been dumped in the secret files of Pakistan ISI and the American CIA and the FBI. Factually, there is no misperception regarding her affiliation with the extremist groups and the alleged role of a facilitator/ sympathizer in that regard but largely she had been mishandled by the US agencies and Pakistani LEAs at the early stage. Later, Pakistani Strategists intentionally avoided her returns because of security reasons, legal technicalities, and sensitivities attached to the issue. Thus, a weak lady, who fell prey to Islamic extremism in love for her religion was put at the mercy of Western crusaders and biased American judges who left no stone unturned to push her into the jaws of death.

In fact, the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has become more political than legal or security issues for both governments. Pakistani leaders and political parties commonly use this issue for political lobbying while successive Pakistani governments missed several opportunities to bring Aafia back even though the Pakistani public desires her return to serve her imprisonment in the country or otherwise. Presently, there is significant normalcy in the US government’s stance on the issue, and the Pakistani nation must stand up and thrive for justice for Aafia. So, the government takes this issue with the Biden administration decisively and resolves this ordeal as soon as possible. Although, her entire life is destroyed but whatever is left should be given to her with dignity and respect. Similarly, thousands of Pakistanis are currently languishing in jails in multiple destinations across the world for minor felonies but there is no one to pursue their cases and get them released from unending imprisonment in other nations. Pakistani envoys abroad must spare a few movements from their busy bureaucratic schedule to look into cases of Pakistani citizens detain in foreign prisons and provide them with necessary legal assistance for an early release and dignified repatriation to the country.