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Aafia’s case

ALL clamour for humanitarian help should convey that human rights are above politics and diplomacy. Aafia Siddiqui — convicted in 2010 and currently serving an 86-year sentence at a federal prison in the US — has returned to the public discourse for disturbing reasons. Shocking allegations made by her lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, merit the state’s attention. Earlier this month, he not only claimed that Aafia was raped and abused a number of times by guards and inmates, but also termed her repeated sexual abuse “unspeakable”. A neuroscientist and a mother, she is still a Pakistani citizen as convicts are not granted US citizenship. While caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has asked for the issue of the alleged sexual attacks on Aafia to be raised before the US State Department, the Foreign Office asserted that the news is of “a serious nature” and that the “welfare of all Pakistanis is our top priority”. But will these statements translate into affirmative action?

We should remember that this is not the first time that Aafia Siddiqui’s situation has sparked concern. Her lawyers had also filed a court case last year, alleging that she was struck by a prisoner with a mug of scalding fluid, and was pummelled by another, leaving her with burns and injuries. Indeed, there is much that is not clear regarding her alleged abduction from Karachi and the incident in Afghanistan where she was accused of shooting two American soldiers. However, there have been many who have termed her trial and conviction as unfair. Moreover, if three Pakistani prisoners, accused of hardcore crimes, can return from Guantánamo Bay, the government here cannot be short on concern for Aafia. It must demand an inquiry by American authorities and a review of the case on compassionate grounds so that she can be transferred to a Pakistani jail. Whatever her crimes, she does not deserve the atrocities she is reportedly facing.

Source: Dawn