Exerting pressure on the US is crucial for Dr. Aafia’s release’



ISLAMABAD, May 7: The release of Dr. Aafia is as much a political battle as it is a legal battle. Apart from seeking legal avenues, the Government of Pakistan must do its part by creating political pressure on the US to secure Dr. Aafia’s release.

For this, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Court must demonstrate the will and undertake all necessary measures to bring her back, urged speakers during a session on “Unending Woes of the US War of Terror: The Case of Pakistani Prisoner Aafia Siddiqui” held at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

The session was held with Clive Stafford Smith, British-American lawyer for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, her sister Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, and Imran Shafiq Advocate, her lawyer in Pakistan.

Dr. Aafia has an iconic status in Pakistan, and, at the same time, she is a symbol of unending misery thanks to the post-9/11 US panic and the War on Terror, said Clive who has been representing her case and has also been able to get over 80 other prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay providing them with pro-bono legal aid.

He said that the counts of attempted murder, assaults, and criminal charges on her and information about her being extremist are all unfounded. Deprived of her liberty, she has been a traumatized victim of US brutality, unlawful imprisonment, and extreme injustice. According to the intelligence data, 98.5 per cent of 780 detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been subject to unlawful imprisonment wherein 764 out of 780 prisoners pose no threat to the US.

He said that there are a lot of difficulties and challenges in bringing Dr. Aafia back legally but, despite that, there are also several legal avenues that can be sought after including the right to be released on compassionate grounds, litigation, pardon, etc. Another significant avenue for this pursuit is the political pressure and influence on the part of Pakistan. In this case, a big question is what’s Pakistan going to offer or put forward for her.

The release of Dr. Aafia is primarily Pakistan’s cause, but the will to get her back to Pakistan has been lacking in successive governments, said Imran Shafique Advocate. This scanty amount of willingness and sincerity demonstrated over time in pursuit of her release has only exploited the issue, as no consistent and significant official efforts have been done and her case is still pending in Islamabad High Court for no reason.

The release of Dr. Aafia is as much a political battle as it is a legal battle, he asserted. There are several ways that the Government of Pakistan can opt for, including repatriation, and exchange agreements like prisoner transfer agreements. But no government in its official capacity has ever utilized them.

The speakers called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Pakistan to not delay in taking the required action in pursuit of her release. In this case, the supervisory role of the court is very important as it can take action against elements that resist her release and expedite the process. Along with this, pressure from the public and intelligentsia, media role, and diplomatic efforts also can exert a considerable influence.