KARACHI: Dr Aafia Siddiqui cannot recall who picked her up and detained her in Karachi or how and when she was shifted to the US airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan, according to a (Pakistani) Senate mission’s report annexed to a petition in the Sindh High Court for her repatriation.
All she remembers is that she hired a taxi to go to her maternal uncle’s house in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Karachi, one day in December 2002 but then found herself at Bagram.
She had recently been divorced by her husband, who allegedly tortured her. Her children, Ahmad, Suleman and Maryam, were taken away from her and she was told by her captors that they would be returned if she confessed to meeting ‘certain individuals’. She did not disclose the names of the individuals she was forced to confess having met as she told the five-member Senate delegation, “the confession would go against her in Pakistan”. She said she was tortured at Bagram and also expressed the fear that Suleman, her younger son, might have been killed.
The fact-finding mission, which visited the United States last year, consisted of Senators Mushahid Hussain Syed, S.M. Zafar, Muhammad Talha Mahmood and Saadia Abbasi and Senate additional secretary Iftikharullah Babar.
The report, compiled by Sen Mushahid Hussain, concluded that Dr Aafia was in bad shape, did not trust her state-appointed counsel, suffered from loss of memory and was unable to stand trial.
Among her interrogators at Bagram, who quizzed her from behind a curtain, was an Indian national who was her contemporary at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, and was interested in her research work. She said she was repeatedly asked to do similar research for the countries the interrogators belonged to. She did not disclose the questions asked but stated that she did not study microbiology at MIT.
At one such session, she told the senators, she got up to see her interrogators behind the curtain and one of the soldiers present shouted “she is loose”. A US captain fired at her and she was hit in the abdomen and collapsed. When she regained consciousness she heard one soldier say “we could lose our jobs”.
The incident forms the basis of criminal proceedings against her in the US. She is charged with snatching and aiming a gun at a soldier. The prosecutors deny that she was shot at or operated upon for her gunshot wound.
Dr Aafia replied in the negative when asked if she had confidence in her counsel. She did not expect justice in the United States, though she said she was not against the US as such. A “third country” has pushed the US in the present quagmire, she said. There was no case against her and bringing her to the US for trial was unlawful, she added.
In the New York jail, Dr Aafia said, six masked men stripped her, tied her hands behind her back and made a video film. A woman covered her with a blanket while she was being taken back to her cell. She even stopped seeing her counsel to avoid being stripped every time she was taken out for a meeting. She was later shifted to the Federal Medical Centre, Carswell, Texas, for tests and treatment.
The Senate delegation report said she suffered from memory loss and disorientation. She loses track of time and often fails to recall names, events and places. She also has some gynaecological problem, for which she is being treated by a male physician while her psychiatrist is a female.
Besides, she has developed a kidney problem. A ‘different’ kind of interrogation has begun at the centre, though conditions were generally better than those faced by her in New York. She said the ‘injections’ being administered to revive her memory may cost her, her life.
Asked whether she got married to Ammar Ali Balochi, who is detained at Guantanamo Bay prison, she denied knowing him. She did not remarry after her husband, Mohammad Amjad Khan, divorced her. Asked whether she wanted the delegation to seek permission for any member of her family to visit her in the US, she said she wanted to return to Pakistan. Tears rolled down Dr Aafia’s cheeks as the delegation bade her farewell. The petition for her repatriation has been moved by Advocate Nisar A. Mujahid on behalf of a non-governmental organisation and is fixed for hearing on March 24.
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