The Case of Dr Aafia and the Need for Change
By shazia Akhtar | February 14, 2010
Dr Aafia Siddiqui was convicted on February 3rd for the attempted murder of US officers during interrogation whilst being detained in Ghazni, Afghanistan and now faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison
This conviction has lead to outcry from around the world from those who are familiar with the background of the case and the catalogue of abuses and violations of which Dr Aafia Siddiqui has been victim.
The ordeal for the young neuroscientist began in 2003 when Dr Aafia Siddiqui disappeared with her 3 young children. It is widely suspected that she was abducted by Pakistani Intelligence and handed over to the FBI who believed her to be an “Al-Qaeda operative”. In the 5 years that followed, there is overwhelming evidence to support the fact that she was being held at the Bagram, the US base in Afghanistan. Her lawyers and human rights organisations believe that while being held at Bagram, she was physically tortured and repeatedly raped by prison officers, to such an extent that it has affected her mental health.
After being extradited to the US in August 2008, she faced charges of attempted murder and assault of a US officer. What followed in the way of judicial process served as a bleak reminder of how the leaders of Western Democracy so readily discard their own principles of ‘human rights’, ‘the rule of law’ and ‘justice’ in order to pursue their colonialist designs and secure their political gains. As the saga of the US led ‘War on Terror’ has unfolded, we have all witnessed the crime that is ‘American justice’ ; Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, routine use of torture, extraordinary rendition, extradition without due process, and detention without charge.
The proceedings conducted in the courtrooms of New York, demonstrated clearly how the entire case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui is tainted by lies and un-answered questions. It was reported that the prosecution did not provide any forensic evidence to prove their case and their witnesses gave contradictory evidences. An obvious question which continues to baffle observers is why there has been such a focus on Dr Aafia’s alleged terrorism involvement, which was used by Prosecution lawyers to create fear amongst the jury, while she was solely on trial for attempted murder. Regarding the verdict, her lawyer, Elaine Sharp, commented, “This verdict is based on fear, not on fact.”
Though it may be an unfortunate fact to state; sadly one could not have expected much other than a shambolic trial, staged in a ’Kangaroo court’ aimed at delivering the US government from international embarrassment rather than delivering any form of justice for our sister Aafia.
The horrific ordeal suffered by this young mother of three is simply the latest human tragedy in the ongoing brutality against Muslims and their countries by Western governments in this “War on Terror”. The current Pakistani leadership has continued the Musharraf legacy of providing “unstinting” support to America’s ill-conceived ‘War on Terror’, which has in return for a price, earned Pakistan a position of complete subordination with regards to the US.
What must continue to concern us at this time is the role of the Pakistani Government; in the initial capture and detention of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and the ongoing apathy with which they have treated the matter and responded to the unlawful verdict.
The fact that Pakistan has surrendered itself militarily and politically to the whims of American policy in the region has meant that FBI officers, together with American armed military personnel are allowed a free reign inside the country and can arrest and detain Paksitani citizens with little (if any) objection from the government, as was the case with Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
The government of Pakistan has shown that it is not concerned by its own citizens being dishonoured, maimed or killed at the hands of a foreign power, this being evident by the fact that it has given a free hand to the US to conduct drone-launched missile attacks on its own soil, which have killed over ?people to date. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the Pakistani authorities have been complicit not only in the case of Dr Siddiqui but also, of the hundreds of other Muslims who have disappeared from Pakistan, believed to have been handed over to the Americans by their dutiful allies. When President Asif Ali Zardari, was forced to respond to the verdict, he struggled to express any criticism of his paymasters in Washington DC, and barely managed a feeble statement which read “We are dismayed over the unexpected verdict of the jury in Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s case”.
The case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui has brought to attention many harsh realities, one of which cannot be ignored; the Political situation in Pakistan can no longer be accepted and it is time for real change.
I ask you to consider at this point in time, with the ever tightening US grip of Pakistan, together with the wholesale betrayal of the leadership, can Pakistan be allowed to continue descending further towards destruction? Can it be acceptable that the honour, dignity and blood of the Muslims of Pakistan be so easily sold by its own government in order to line the pockets of the feudal lords- turned- politicians?
At such a time we must talk openly about change. Pakistan requires a new system, a system whose sincere leadership will guard the honour and lives of its citizens; women and men alike. What is needed for real and successful change in Pakistan is a system with a representative and accountable government, a stable economy, an independent judiciary, independence from foreign control, a system which prioritises people’s basic needs over the gains of a few or of private enterprise…
It is most definitely time for change.