ISLAMABAD, Aug 13: Pakistan on Wednesday protested against the detention of Al Qaeda suspect Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s three children by the United States and demanded their immediate repatriation.

The Foreign Office also urged US authorities to respect Dr Siddiqui’s rights as an under-trial prisoner.

“We have sent a note verbale to the US State Department that the children of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who according to media reports are in US custody, be immediately returned to Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said at the weekly media briefing.

Regarding Pakistan’s position on the repatriation of Dr Siddiqui herself, the spokesman said that Islamabad remained committed to repatriation of all Pakistanis detained abroad. However, he noted that since Dr Siddiqui was being tried in the US, no request for immediate repatriation had been made and only consular access was being provided to her.

“We are making every possible effort that Dr Aafia Siddiqui is not discriminated against and that her rights as an under-trial prisoner are respected,” he said.

Referring to growing Western criticism of Pakistan’s consular assistance for an Al Qaeda associate, Mr Sadiq said the government considered a legal and moral responsibility to assist a Pakistani national. The government, he emphasised, would continue to pursue the issue with US authorities.

About Dr Siddiqui’s refusal during consular access to share with the Pakistan government information on the circumstances of her arrest, the spokesman said that the government respected the right of Dr Siddiqui to share or not to share any information about her.

KASHMIR: The spokesman expressed concern on reports of attacks on the life and property of Muslims in occupied Kashmir and their economic blockade by extremist elements, fearing these might have serious humanitarian implications.

“We are deeply concerned over the deteriorating situation in IOK, which is resulting in loss of life and property of the Kashmiri people and violation of their human rights. We call for immediate steps to end violence against innocent Kashmiris.” Pakistan, he said, impresses upon India to observe restraint and rein in extremist elements that were seeking economic ruin of the Kashmiri people.

The spokesman said that it was important India ensured an enabling environment, free of violence, to sustain the peace process and address the Kashmir dispute.

The Foreign Office released the official tally of illegal Pakistani immigrants detained in Turkish prisons, putting the figure at 1,700.

Mr Sadiq said all of them had been taken to Turkey by ‘unscrupulous overseas employment promoters’.

“The reckless behaviour of some overseas employment promoters and so-called immigration agents is endangering the lives of Pakistanis seeking employment abroad, defrauding their families and causing grief to their relatives and friends.”

The Pakistan Embassy in Ankara and the consulate general in Istanbul are facilitating the return of the detainees.

INDIAN EMBASSY BOMBING: The spokesman regretted that neither Afghanistan nor India have shared evidence in support of their allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in the blast at the Indian embassy in Kabul.

“Neither Afghanistan nor India had provided any evidence in support of their allegations despite our repeated demands. Unsubstantiated allegations do not help the war on terror or promote regional peace and stability,” Mr Sadiq said.

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