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Ridley asks Pakistanis to unite for Dr Aafia’s release

PESHAWAR: British journalist and Muslim convert Maryam Yvonne Ridley said on Wednesday Americans got frightened and panicky whenever Pakistanis got united on an issue, asking the nation to unite to pressure the US.

The Muslim convert cited Pakistan unity and Pakistanis’ strong protests over publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in a Danish newspaper, saying Americans were frightened and horrified due to unity and cohesion among Pakistanis.

Maryam said there was no doubt that Americans first landed on the moon and produced great people but they still had a long way to go before they called themselves civilised, adding torture of prisoners at US and Afghan torture cells was an ample proof that Americans were not a civilised nation.

The British journalist, who was arrested by Taliban on September 20, 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11 and later released, was addressing a press conference at Peshawar Press Club.

The female journalist, who embraced Islam and was named Maryam, told the media persons that allegations leveled by US authorities against Dr Aafia Siddiqui were totally false. To say that she (Aafia) snatched a rifle from an American soldier and fired at them (army personnel) was a big lie, said the British journalist. Dr Aafia was shot three times, she said.

The British journalist said if at all Dr Aafia had committed a crime, she should have been tried in the country of origin and not in the US.

Maryam asked President Zardari to pay attention to Dr Aafia case. She demanded the Pakistan government bring back Dr Aafia and her missing children.

The Muslim convert said the US authorities had imprisoned several Arab and Asian women in secret prisons and these women had been sexually and physically abused.

She said the US and Afghan authorities had dumped around 150 children in Afghan orphanages. “Some of them are in Bagram.

They have forgotten their names, names of their parents and which place they belong to,” she said. She said even officials at Bagram jail didn’t know what to do with these children now. She said these were the children of imprisoned women languishing in Afghan jails.

Ridley said she had been looking for prisoner no. 650, a woman in Bagram jail, asking Pakistani journalists to help her find her whereabouts. Maryam said the whereabouts of prisoner no. 650 were still unknown.

She said the Pentagon did not give a clear answer about how women and children were in US captivity. Maryam said the US officials cancelled the visa of Amna Janjua, spokeswoman for missing persons and whose husband had been missing since May 2005, when she was about to board a US-bound plane to know about her husband and others.

Ridley said though US president-elect Obama talked about freedom and justice, policy change would not be clear until he took oath of his office. However, Ridley said she didn’t think there would be any change following the US elections.

She praised the Pakistani media, saying Pakistani journalists were not afraid of challenges.
Source: Daily Times
Date:11/6/2008

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