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Pakistan to urge US for Dr Aafia’s repatriation

Published Aug 27, 2013 10:31pm
Pakistani activists of the hard-line party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) carry photographs of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui as they shout slogans while they march toward the US embassy during an anti-US protest in Islamabad. – AFP Photo/File
Pakistani activists of the hard-line party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) carry photographs of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui as they shout slogans while they march toward the US embassy during an anti-US protest in Islamabad. – AFP Photo/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government is set to bring Dr Aafia Siddiqui back home from a US prison as the interior ministry Tuesday dispatched a summary to the cabinet division seeking approval of the federal cabinet scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

The federal cabinet meeting under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to approve the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons among many agenda items including amendments in Service Tribunal ACT, 1973, Amendment in the federal employees benevolent fund and group insurance act, 1969.

The sixteen point agenda of the Wednesday’s meeting, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, revealed the cabinet is set to take up the issue of bringing Dr Siddiqui back home.

“Approval for signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and attaining accession to this convention, request to the US government for repatriation of Ms Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan,” reads the cabinet agenda.

The United States has bilateral treaties with Bolivia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Thailand, and Turkey, and is a party to two multilateral conventions, the Council of Europe (COE) Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, and Inter American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad.

Similarly, applications for prisoners seeking transfer to/from Canada, France, Panama, and Turkey are normally processed under the COE Convention. The United States also has prisoner transfer agreements with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 after she was convicted of grabbing a US soldier’s assault rifle and trying to shoot a group of FBI agents and soldiers at an Afghan police compound in July 2008.

She denied the charge against her during the trial. However, the US officials suggested that she was an al Qaeda agent, a claim her family and many in Pakistan believe was just a cover-up.

She is being held at the notorious Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, Texas, where she is kept in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), which is the most severe confinement category.

Her release has become one of the top national issues in Pakistan. There have been numerous protests not only in Pakistan but many other countries for her release.

Former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf had constituted a four-member committee headed by then foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar to look into the case of Dr Siddiqui. However, the committee failed to make desired progress for her repatriation.