Bringing Dr Aafia back

Published July 25, 2013
The case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui became a rallying cry for religious parties in the country soon after her arrest. -File Photo
The case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui became a rallying cry for religious parties in the country soon after her arrest. -File Photo

ISLAMABAD: First formal request from Islamabad to Washington is expected next month for handing over Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a sentence in a high security prison in Texas.

Dr Aafia was accused of having links with al-Qaeda and had reportedly assaulted US military officials while being interrogated in Afghanistan's notorious Bagram Airbase, some five years ago.

She was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a federal judge in Manhattan on September 23, 2010, on charges of attempted murder, armed attack and carrying firearms.

Dr Aafia became a rallying cry for religious parties in the country soon after her arrest. Several mainstream political parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf have called for her repatriation to Pakistan.

A senior official of interior ministry told Dawn.com the recommendations were ready to be taken up by the federal cabinet in its next meeting. The formulators of the report have incorporated various citations from international conventions on diplomatic, humanitarians, political and legal grounds.

Nonetheless, the report suggests that extradition of Dr Aafia can only be done within the ambit of US laws. The report does not include any suggestion of swapping Dr Aafia with either the CIA facilitator, Dr Shakil Afridi, or some high profile Taliban prisoner.

Soon after assuming office Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered senior officials to prepare the report in the light of applicable international conventions. He also held a meeting with Dr Aafia’s sister, Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, to show solidarity.

The official disclosed the government of Pakistan would invoke, at least, two international conventions namely Inter-State Convention on Extradition and European Convention on Extradition.

He stated that since Dr Aafia allegedly committed the crime in a third country, certain legal hitches could impede her repatriation to Pakistan from the United States. However, he said all issues could be resolved providing the Americans agreed to accept Pakistan’s viewpoint.

Interior Ministry spokesman Umer Hameed confimed the recommendations were ready for the federal cabinet’s consideration and approval. He said the legal aspect of the matter has been adequately addressed in the report.

Shahzad Raza is a freelance contributor. His twitter handle is @shahz79.

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