The news has come as a disappointment to many that the United States has said it would not repatriate Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan even if Islamabad joins the Inter-American Convention on Serving of Criminal Sentences Abroad 1993. Our government and those before had made promises to have the Pakistani citizen back on home soil where she would carry out the rest of her sentence in peace. The US has made it clear that it intends to pursue the matter as a political one rather than a legal or humanitarian subject. The legal options for Dr. Aafia are running out, or maybe weren’t there to begin with.

In Pakistan, many ultranationalists who have seen Aafia as a symbol of injustice and victimisation, are unable to let go of the issue. It is worth remembering that her case is not an easy one to understand and lacks clarity for us to claim her completely innocent. Over the years the mantra of freeing the Pakistani citizen detained abroad has gained such momentum that everyone has lost sight of why she is there in the first place. She was convicted on two counts of attempted murder of US nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, and three counts of assault on US officers and employees. Apart from these direct offences, she has been proved to be an Al-Qaeda operative by both US and Pakistani intelligence with links to Afghani Taliban where she was ultimately found and arrested.

If the legal claims are strictly to be valued then as a Pakistani citizens she should be tried and should be allowed to carry out her sentence here. However, this argument does not include the claim that she is innocent of the crimes she is accused of. If people want to advocate her right to serve her sentence in Pakistan that is all very well, but to call her the “Daughter of Pakistan”, or to consider her a hero only encourages more radicalisation. In these sensitive times, Pakistan must be pragmatic. We must pick our heroes, as well as our battles.