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Dr Aafia’s children: father’s plea

AS the father of three innocent children, I have been frustrated and anguished by what has taken place since my divorce from Dr Aafia Siddiqui in August 2002. I hesitated to come forward because I did not want anything I said to be used against the mother of my children. I am only speaking out now because I am desperately worried about my children’s safety.

In October 2002, Dr Aafia and I signed an agreement. I agreed that Aafia would retain custody of our three young children, Ahmed, Marium and Suleman. Aafia agreed to let me meet them and ensure their well-being. But Aafia did not uphold her side of the agreement.

She did not let me meet my children or fulfil my obligation of financially supporting them. In June 2003, I filed a lawsuit for custody of the children. Based on past experience, I had reason to fear that Aafia might pursue her political ambitions to the detriment of our children’s welfare. It now seems that the truth may be worse than I could have imagined.

In the course of our lawsuit, Aafia’s mother, Ismat Siddiqui, testified in a sworn deposition in August 2003 that the FBI had informed her US lawyer that the children and their mother were safe with them. In US press reports, however, the lawyer, Elaine Sharp, said the FBI had told her exactly the opposite.

When my family and I inquired from the FBI, we were told that the US was still looking for Aafia and had no information about where the children were. Why did Aafia’s mother claim the FBI had told her lawyer they had the children when plainly the FBI hadn’t said anything of the sort?

My two oldest children are US citizens. If the Siddiquis had evidence that the US was holding our three innocent children prisoner, why didn’t they bring charges in the US against the relevant agencies?

Aafia’s uncle, S. H. Faruqi, in his article published recently, has claimed that he met Aafia in Islamabad in January 2008, and that Aafia’s face was altered by plastic surgery and that she had a national ID card under a fictitious name.

I would like to know where my children were at that time. Who were these ‘captors’ of Aafia and why had they held my children?

More recently, Aafia’s lawyer in the US, Elizabeth Fink, has claimed that our youngest son Suleman died in ‘captivity’. Whose captivity and where? Who were the people who were depriving me and my children from seeing each other? As an anguished father, I appeal to Elizabeth Fink and anyone else, here in Pakistan or in any other country, to come forward with anything they know about what has happened to all three of my children since 2003.

If there is any evidence that the US or any other agencies held them captive or, God forbid, been responsible for their deaths, I would like to see those responsible brought to justice.

I was relieved to hear that Ahmad was located in Afghanistan last month, and was brought to Islamabad, although I have many unanswered questions about how an innocent 12-year-old boy ended up in a war zone. Since Aafia’s sister Dr Fowzia was actively influencing the officials concerned and was posing as the real guardian of Ahmad, she took custody of him. I decided not to interfere in this process because Ahmad’s arrival might have been delayed or jeopardised as a result of the dispute and that would not be in his best interest.

In a New York Times report, Afghan officials who had interviewed Ahmad in Afghanistan said that “the boy was smart, confident and courageous”. After his handing over to the Siddiquis, however, they claimed that Ahmad is mentally unfit and cannot talk to anyone. Their lawyer, E. Fink, at a recent court hearing also claimed that Ahmad was heavily medicated because he is seriously disturbed.

I would like to know what happened after Ahmad was handed over to the Siddiquis that made him so mentally unfit as to require psychiatric treatment.

Since Ahmed returned to Karachi, I have tried contacting the Siddiquis over the telephone to see and meet him, but they refused to talk. I then went over to their house but was turned away from the gate. I sent a congratulatory letter to Aafia’s mother and sister requesting permission to visit and see Ahmad, but I did not get a reply.

Knowing the Siddiqui family’s intentions and attitude, I have no alternative left but to seek legal help for his custody. Why has Dr Fowzia been telling the media and government officials that my and my family’s whereabouts were not known, whereas in reality we had been frequently contacting her in connection with Ahmad. The government officials too did not bother to find out who the real and legal guardians of Ahmad were.

As of today, two of the children still need to be found. The truth does matter. If what the Siddiquis are saying is true, then whoever kidnapped Aafia and the children needs to be held responsible. I am still trying to locate and rescue my two younger children whose lives are in terrible jeopardy. I appeal to the nation to come forward and help in this regard before it is too late.
Source: Dawn