Dr Afia Siddiqi’s case
With Yvonne Ridley on AFia Siddiqi
Yvonne Ridley was one of the first journalists to have talked about Afia Siddiqa case. She has been very critical of her arrest and thinks that she has been singled out for her beliefs, a stand that I don’t accept. When her article on the decision on Afia’s case was published (which is being reproduced at the end of the page), I had entered into a discussion with her on her viewpoint between March 21 to 23 this year. The discussion failed to convince each other, it could offer some good reading on this highly emotional and sensitive issue. Any further dialogue is welcomed. My comments are in normal font while those of YR have been italicised.
Yvonne Ridley: Salaams Tahir, What evidence do you have she was working against US interest? We all enjoy, or should enjoy, freedom of speech. The prosecution’s opening statement was that she did not belong to any terror organisation so what evidence do you have to the contrary?
There’s been a great deal of hearsay and I feel that – inadvertently – you may have become a victim of that.
But thank you for all your time and trouble – you come from my favourite area of Pakistan where honour is often to be judged the real currency of the day … I salute you and your people and your efforts.
ME: Dear sister I always think and which you have also said that
“Of the hundreds who have been renditioned from Afghanistan (usually via Pakistan) why she is the only one put through a court?”. Why do you just accuse me of being gullible, being taken in by US propaganda and of doing great disservice to my skills when we agree on that Afia has been wrongly and falsely implicated as I said earlier. I agree with you that there are several inherent contradictions, loopholes and weaknesses in the Afia case which, I think can save her if these are pointed out to the judges there.
I also think that the US has no right to impose its will on others. That is why Afghanis, I believe, are legitimate freedom fighters but why do Pakistani interfere in Afghanistan and make themselves at par with the US.
If you think that Afia has been punished for nothing, it is simply untenable. There are hundreds of thousands of Huffaz-e-Quran but she was singled out because she was there working against the US interests. Ok, I too believe the US is on the wrong but mind you it is a great power and great powers have never let others harm their status throughout the ages.
There are millions of vocal critics like you and me but as they do so peacefully, they are not prone to arrests and tortures. You said she was not Taliban but the Afghan Taliban official spokesman had asked for her release and included here in the list for any possible future exchange of prisoners?
I have closely following the case from the start. From what I read and discussed with activists, I have learnt that she had indeed crossed the limits of peaceful opposition, had indulged in anti-US activities, up to what I extent i don’t know but she certainly did that is why she was singled out as the first ever female anti-US ‘activist’ (the US dropped that charge against her because the prosecution knew that for lack of proof it was hard to prove the point in courts but there were intelligence reports about her and not all reports are false though most are) that she was falsely implicated in the firing case, that she never contested the point that she was not arrested from Afghanistan, and actually it was from Pakistan that she was arrested, but despite that i think she can be won back only through legal means and must be helped.
I respect your interest, your sympathy with her and hundreds of others taken away and disappeared from the scenes. I will wait for any of your articles on the issue. You might have known from the footnote down in my email that I belong to Mardan NWFP. I am a teacher and a freelance columnist in The News, Dawn and Business Recorder. I had sent you the link to my article on the declining support to militants in my previous mail. kindly read and inform of your response. I think you are quite busy a person, as me, and I have taken a lot of your time on the issue. Sorry for that and thanks for your enlightening ideas.
|ME: I fully agree your following observations.
“I might not have all the pieces to this jigsaw but I think it’s fair to say Aafia has been a victim of the cruelest form of injustice, robbed of her children, shot, tortured, renditioned and charged in an illegal process. Why? Because this is what the US does and as long as politicians bend to their will, it will continue. But it needn’t continue unchecked.” ME: But I believe she is also to blame. She should not embark on a path that is fraught with these hazards.
YR: MIT University – one of the top 10 in the world? Developing, as one of the world’s most accomplished neuroscientists developing a special programme to help remedial children with learning difficulties?
ME: But the fact that she was not released doesn’t mean the US justice system is to blame.
YR: Of course it is to blame – the trial should never have gone ahead, it was illegal. She was kidnapped and renditioned to the US for a crime allegedly carried out in Afghanistan. Of the hundreds who have been renditioned from Afghanistan (usually via Pakistan) why is she the only one put through a court?
ME: Instead her lawyers are as you also said they ignored your point. I am strongly against burning US national flag by the Afia sympathisers. i simply loath it and it seems ridiculous to me when they say Pakistan should sever diplomatic relations with the US.
YR: Flag burning is a symptom of frustration with countries, it happens the world over. Aafia never called for it and neither did her family.
YR: The Pakistan Govt sold her in the first place. By paying $2m it should have done that without condition but instead became the client and instructed the legal team. Then, according to my colleagues in the US media, HE Haqqani went on a behind-the-scenes briefing campaign demonising Aafia after the trial.
ME: It simply would have won a lot of votes had she been released. Though, she had not asked the Pakistani nation or government to tread the path of extremism and that is why I think she and her relatives have no right to seek Pakistan’s help.
YR: What path of extremism? Are you going to buy the FBI campaign against her? Please don’t be gullible. She is not an extremist although she has been painted one. She is a hafiz … does that make her an extremist? Are we punished for our piety now?
ME: I think she can be won back only through legal means by highlighting the inherent contradictions in the prosecutions case and by proving in the US courts her innocence in atleast the firing incident which certainly didn’t occur at all nor are there any evidences thereof. When I said why was she singled out, I meant by the US, not by you.