WASHINGTON: Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in the US for 86 years for allegedly attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan, had a third meeting with her sister at a prison hospital in Texas on Thursday.

“Please think of Fowzia Siddiqui and Aafia today! After the tainted joy of their reunion after 20yrs today they must say goodbye at least for a while,” Aafia’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith wrote in a tweet he posted before the meeting.

The two sisters had their first reunion in 20 years at the Carswell prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday. The lawyer attended all three meetings between the two sisters while Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed also accompanied them on at least one occasion.

“Govt of Pakistan you owe her honesty,” the lawyer wrote in another tweet. “Aafia and I spoke today about how she needs to know whether her infant Suleiman was really killed when she was originally abducted.”

US authorities say Aafia was detained in Afghanis­tan in 2008 and was brought to a US military base for interrogation, where she grabbed a rifle and opened fire on her interrogators.

The US government said it was unaware of her location from March 2003 until July 2008, but statements released by Aafia’s side indicated that she was abducted earlier in Karachi, where her son also disappeared.

Her other two children — a son and a daughter — were babies when she was incarcerated but they are in their 20s now. She saw their pictures on Tuesday, after 20 years.

She had not been in contact with any of her family members for more than a decade.

“It was deeply depressing, but nevertheless a privilege, to be present for this emotional reunion,” said Mr Smith, the lawyer. The visits, he said, focused on “how we can get her home from the hell of her current existence”.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, in a tweet, said the sisters met in a room separated by a glass wall and were not allowed to exchange gifts. Quoting Dr Fowzia, he said Aafia was not in a good condition and was not aware of the death of her mother, who passed away last year.

Dawood Ghaznavi, a Pak­is­tani lawyer associated with the free Aafia movement, said US authorities could send Aafia to Pak­istan if the Pakistani est­ablishment assured them that “they would keep Aafia in a secure place” and would not allow her to resume her activities.

Mr Smith said, “our re­­quest is to let Aafia go home” but it could only hap­­pen if Pakistan made sincere efforts.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023

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