Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, March 1, 2010
Even After the Guilty Verdict, Aafia Siddiqui Will Just Not Go Away
By Ridwan Sheikh
Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org, March 1, 2010
While Aafia Siddiqui awaits sentencing, later this year on May 6, with the prospect of facing a maximum of 20 year term in prison, the case that rattled the U.S, is far from closed.
Although, the Pakistani government paid $2 million dollars to Aafia Siddiqui’s legal defence team, behind the scenes it’s a different matter. The truth is the joint involvement of the Pakistani, U.S and Afghan governments have yet to answer some simple questions. How did she end up in the police compound in Afghanistan? Who knew about it? And who is responsible for her missing children?
Following the guilty verdict, one of Aafia Siddiqui’s defense attorneys, Elaine Sharp, broke her silence, “Aafia Siddiqui told us that she was picked-up by Pakistani men in two black cars. These were people of Pakistani intelligence. You know- she said ISI.”
However, Abdul Basit, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry, insisted it has the welfare of Aafia Siddiqui at heart, “ultimate objective is to get her back to Pakistan and we will do everything possible and we’ll apply all possible tools in this regard”.
But at a press conference in Karachi, given by, Fauzia, the sister of Aafia Siddiqui, boldly confirmed what many had feared.
“This is a pack of lies; everybody knows that she was kidnapped by the Pakistani intelligence agencies at the behest of General Pervez Musharraf. He [Musharraf] later handed her over to Americans, who took her to Afghanistan, where she was detained and tortured for many months.”
In a recent statement written to the Pakistani newspaper, the nation, Fauzia Siddiqui, lifted the, tightly ajar, lid on what really happened: “At first, the Government had shown its complete ignorance regarding Aafia’s abduction but in the background meetings with members of her family, top Pakistani leaders and the then interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat gave assurances for her early recovery on the condition that there would be no protest against the government and then president Pervez Musharraf.
“The PM told me if the US did not accept the government’s demand to release Aafia, his government would say “no” to the US aid until Aafia returned home,” Fouzia Siddiqui said.
In a separate development, the Pakistani daily, The News, reported on 04 February 2010, that a new legal proceeding was underway in Karachi. But many suspect due to the critical comments against the Pakistan government, it wanted to shift the blame to the U.S government and thereby washing its hands in the whole affair.
An investigating officer, Shahid Qureshi, submitted a report to the Judicial magistrate on charges related to the 2003 kidnapping of Aafia Siddiqui and her children, stating that it was carried out “by FBI intelligence agents without any warrants or notice.”
It is not unusual for Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), agency, to collaborate in forcibly abducting its citizens from Pakistan to secret U.S prisons, where unspeakable torture awaits them, all under the guise of the U.S governments ‘war on terror’, in return for cash dollars from the FBI.
The truth is Aafia Siddiqui’s tragic ordeal didn’t begin in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. Human rights groups believe in March 2003, Aafia Siddiqui, together with her three children were on their way to Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, to board a flight heading to Islamabad, when Pakistani intelligence agents cut short their car journey and nabbed the family. They later handed the family to Afghan officials, where under the noses of FBI and U.S military officials, Aafia Siddiqui, was secretly abducted to the U.S Bagram air base in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was held for more than five years and subjected to torture and unspeakable abuse.
The family’s ordeal didn’t stop there. Mohammed, her eldest son, was eventually released into the care of Siddiqui's sister, Fauzia, on condition that he kept his mouth shut by not becoming a whistleblower, surrounding his arrest and abduction. However, the fate of the other two children, her daughter, Maryam, and her infant son Suleman, remains shrouded in mystery. Pakistan’s ISI, U.S officials and the afghan authorities amazingly deny all knowledge of the whereabouts of the children. Their disappearance has stunned Pakistan.
Pakistan’s secretly run ISI’s role in kidnapping and abduction is nothing new. In fact, it’s something human rights groups have been voicing for some time. The ISI denies any wrong doing but recent reports have cast serious doubts on ISI’s claim.
Indeed, in December 2009, Asian Human Rights commission called for Colonel Hamza of the ISI to be prosecuted for the abduction, illegal detention and torture of young men from Pakistani Kashmir, held in Bala Hisar fort near Peshawar, Pakistan.
It is believed Colonel Hamza and other officials in his charge, physically abused these men and threatened them not to tell anyone about their illegal detention otherwise they would face serious consequences, (sounds familiar?).
In recent months, a stinging 226 page independent report, written by the UN, entitled Cruel Britannia, was researched by the New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch, focused primarily on US policies and its partners towards its ‘war on terror’ facilities and practices.
The report written by the UN investigators, Manfred Nowak and Martin Scheinin, details the practices, of how secret US detention were set up and run, in the previous nine years.
The study includes interviews of government officials, former intelligence and 33 interviews of former detainees, their lawyers and families over the course of a year.
It said after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the former US President, George W. Bush, used “black sites” such as the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, in its “war on terror” drive, so that it would be outside the jurisdiction of U.S domestic courts.
The intention was to stamp a, “free licence”, to continue illegal activities in such secret locations as within the U.S Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
The report mentioned a number of secret prisons in Afghanistan - in particular, the "Dark Prison," the "Salt Pit" and a secret facility within Bagram airbase.
“Victims and their families deserve compensation and those responsible should be prosecuted, said the four independent investigators,” it stated.
The report also revealed from interviews taken of several Pakistani Intelligence agents, alleging, they had tortured British terrorism suspects on the orders of key eastern European and western governments, including the U.K.
It make you wonder, that If the ISI can torture and abduct British and U.S nationals and residents to secret locations in Afghanistan, with the knowledge of western governments, then the ISI wouldn’t have any trouble in widening their free licence to subject their own citizens in the same way.
What is clear, the U.S government refuses to acknowledge or discuss highly questionable practices in secret detention sites, such as torture, rendition, abduction and widespread abuse. But it is the fate of hundreds of ‘prisoners’, which has left a deep imprint in the U.S government and serves as a symbol of distrust to the rest of the world.
In such detention sites the guilt and innocence of a human being is deemed irrelevant, something which the Obama government tried to block in the U.S court of appeal, District of Columbia, in September 2009, in its unsuccessful attempt to deny habeas corpus rights to detainees held in Bagram.
Since, U.S media outlets, such as Washington Post and the New York Times, ran exposes in November 2009, of illegal activities in Bagram air base, the rest of the media is pretty much silent, instead preferring to churn out news on the glamour lifestyle of the U.S president and his family. But what about Aafia Siddiqui’s family and the mystery surrounding her missing children? Isn’t this considered news? Then again, to western eyes at least, it’s not ‘glamorous’ enough.Ridwan Sheikh is the editor of www.policyElite.com
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