ISLAMABAD  -  The United States has promised to ‘look into’ Pakistan’s request to ensure human rights to Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Dr Siddiqui was arrested and interrogated by US officials in Afghanistan when she grabbed a rifle and opened fire, shouting ‘death to Americans’ in 2008. In 2010, she was convicted of seven counts of attempted murder and assault of US military personnel.

She is serving her 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Centre, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas in the US. Since her conviction, Pakistan is trying to bring her back to Pakistan under humanitarian grounds but has so far failed.

A foreign ministry statement here said: “The issue of respecting the human and legal rights of Dr Aafia Siqqiqui was also raised in the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Ambassador Alice Wells on November 6. US side has promised to look into our request. The Foreign Minister will soon meet with the sister of Dr Aafia Siddique in Islamabad.”

It said: “(The) government of Pakistan has been raising the issue of Dr Aafia Siddiqui with US authorities regularly. Pakistan’s CG (Consulate General) in Houston pays Consular visits to Dr Siddiqui, periodically, to inquire about her wellbeing and conveys her messages to Dr Siddiqui’s family if any.”  US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells was in Islamabad from November 6-7 for talks on Afghanistan and terror financing.

Officials said the two sides discussed possible talks with the Taliban and Pakistan’s steps to avert severe sanctions by the Financial Action Task Force which meets again in January.  The foreign ministry statement said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will soon meet Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The announcement came after Dr Siddiqui sent a special message to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking the support against her “illegal imprisonment.”

The Consul General of Pakistan at Houston Aisha Farooqui had met Dr Aafia Siddiqui on October 9 where she conveyed a message for the Prime Minister.

“I want to get out of prison, my imprisonment in the US is illegal as I was kidnapped and taken to the US, Imran Khan had supported me in the past also. I have always considered him as one of my biggest heroes and wish to see him as the Khalifa (caliph) of all Muslims,” she said. Dr Siddiqui warned the premier to beware of the ‘munafiqs’ (hypocrites) around him.

Dr Siddiqui also criticised the opponents of Imran Khan saying those opposing the PM for his past mistakes should stop the campaign because under the Islamic law he was innocent. Aafia Siddiqui was born in Pakistan in 1972. In 1990, she went to study in the United States and obtained a PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. She returned to Pakistan for a time following the 9/11 attacks and again in 2003 during the war in Afghanistan.

In June 2018, a confidential report prepared by Pakistan’s consul general in Houston of her visit to Dr Siddiqui had claimed that she was subjected to physical and sexual abuse during her ongoing detention.

The report recommended diplomatic authorities to take up the case at the highest levels to find a way for her repatriation so that she can serve her remaining sentence in Pakistan, where her modesty and privacy would not be interfered with. Last month, Dr Siddiqui’s sister Dr Fauzia Siddiqui had met Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari to discuss ways to bring her sister back home.

The Federal Minister had then said the government was trying its best to bring Dr Aafia Siddiqui back to Pakistan. Dr Mazari had said: “We are well aware of the problems and anguish of Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s family.”

 

 

SHAFQAT ALI