Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who is in Washington these days for talks with top US officials, has sent a letter to the FBI to repatriate Dr Aafia Siddiqui. Obviously, public sentiment is among the factors that is making it harder for the government to look the other way.

It bears repeating that our government is not merely asking for her release; it is asking to hand her over to the Pakistani authorities, since in Pakistan, alongside completing her sentence in easier conditions, she would be able to interact with her family. And most important of all, the resentment that her detention abroad is causing would also fizzle out.

Considering the past responses of the US the letter might not find favour even though Pakistan has transferred a large number of hardcore terrorists to the US during the course of the past 11 years. If the US wants, it is quite possible to find room in its legal system to repatriate her to Pakistan and let her spend the rest of the term here. As things stand, a mere writing of a letter would not help; the government would have to at the same time realise that it pursues the case proactively and not rest with just going through the formality of writing a letter. Dr Aafia’s issue is one which inspires an emotional response across Pakistan and it would be better if it could be somehow resolved and removed from the political chessboard, so that the focus could shift to other issues of national importance.