ISLAMABAD: Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood on Friday affirmed his unwavering commitment to secure the safe release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
Dr. Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist, has been serving an 86-year sentence in the United States (US) since her conviction by a federal court in New York in 2010 on charges of attempted murder and other offenses.
Currently receiving treatment in a federal medical prison in Texas, Dr. Siddiqui benefits from specialized medical and mental health facilities available to women inmates. Speaking to this premier news agency, Senator Talha revealed that in 2008, he had successfully met with Dr. Siddiqui at the Phantom Detention Centre in Dallas after fulfilling all necessary protocols. During their encounter, he engaged in a detailed discussion with her adding that at that time, it was a fresh incident and she sustained three bullet injuries. Since then, Dr. Siddiqui’s sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, and mother, Ismat Siddiqui, had maintained consistent contact with him, he mentioned.
Highlighting his priorities, Senator Talha emphasized his initial focus on locating Dr. Siddiqui’s missing children and fighting the case in the US court, in a parallel way to efforts for her release. Notably, her children, Ahmed and Maryam, were discovered in Afghanistan under distressing conditions, he added.
To secure Dr. Siddiqui’s freedom, the minister orchestrated protest demonstrations, pursued diplomatic channels through the foreign affairs and interior ministries, and successfully garnered unanimous support for resolutions in legislative forums, including the National Assembly and Senate. Disclosing a longstanding alignment between himself and Dr. Siddiqui’s family, Senator Talha revealed that over the past 15 years, they had approached the situation with mutual understanding.
Regrettably, due to pressing official commitments as the minister for religious affairs, he could not personally visit Dr. Siddiqui during the most recent trip to the US, despite planning to do so alongside her sister, Dr. Fowzia, he added.
Senator Talha, expressing his dissatisfaction with the treatment of Dr. Siddiqui’s case in the past, maintained that she could be absolved of all fabricated charges if her case was persistently and efficiently pursued.
He highlighted the significance of the newly appointed human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who is advocating for her release based on Dr. Siddiqui’s mental health condition. He firmly asserted that a patient in an unsound mental state should not be detained in prison under any law.
He, expressing disappointment over missed opportunities in the past, revealed that there were instances when Dr. Siddiqui’s release from the US prison seemed possible, particularly during negotiations surrounding the releases of Dr. Shakil Afridi and Raymond Davis, as demanded by the US government.
Senator Talha, reiterating his ultimate goal of securing Dr. Siddiqui’s release from US custody, emphasized that he had consistently provided genuine advice to Dr. Fowzia regarding the matter, reflecting his unwavering determination to see Dr. Siddiqui freed. (APP)