Aafia refused to meet Pakistan envoy, IHC told

Published January 12, 2021
A file photo of Pakistan-born neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
A file photo of Pakistan-born neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

ISLAMABAD: Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, refused to meet Pakistan’s consul general for processing her mercy petition, the foreign ministry informed the Islamabad High Court on Monday.

The ministry submitted the report in connection with a petition filed by Dr Aafia’s sister, Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, seeking her repatriation from the US. Justice Aamer Farooq heard the petition.

While apprising the court of the status of the mercy petition, the report stated that “following the signing of the mercy petition by Dr Aafia during the December 2019 consular visit, our embassy in Washington DC had approached the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for further course of action.

“The Office of Pardon Attorney at DoJ advised that the signed petition could be filed by the inmate herself by post or through the jail warden or through her appointed attorney.

“In the absence of the appointed lawyer, the only other option was that inmate lodges the petition herself through the prison warden.”

The report said that in order to address this caveat, “the consul general in Houston planned a visit to Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Carswell, US, to meet Dr Aafia Siddiqui. The meeting was scheduled on March 27, 2020, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As an alternative, the petition was sent to the FMC so that it could be forwarded to DoJ, but the FMC informed that Dr Aafia has refused to sign the additional consent form for dispatching the petition to DoJ”.

It further stated that “the consul general approached prison authorities for consular access at the earliest. Only after the intervention of the embassy in Washington, a special consular visit was arranged for the consul general on Sept 24, 2020, but the consent form could not be signed during that meeting. The consul general again went to meet Dr Aafia on Dec 15, 2020, but prison authorities informed him that Dr Aafia has refused to meet him”. According to the report, Dr Aafia Siddiqui tested Covid-19 negative and her mental condition was stable.

Justice Farooq, however, termed the report unsatisfactory and remarked that there was no progress at all for the last five years as the petition had been filed in 2015. He sought a comprehensive report from the ministry in a fortnight and adjourned the hearing of the case till Feb 10. The court also summoned the joint secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the next date of the case hearing.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021

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