At last a word has come out from Dr. Aafia Siddiqui herself about her travails. On Tuesday, October 6, four Pakistani senators met her in Texas but unfortunately their account has not been properly covered in many news reports. One exception is Daily Times, whose correspondent Khalid Hasan has given a remarkably detailed account of what Aafia told the senators in a meeting which lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes.
ACCORDING TO HER:
- She was on her way to the Karachi airport in 2003 with her children when she was taken. She remembers being given an injection and when she came to she was in a cell.
- She was being brainwashed by men who spoke perfect English. They could be Afghan or others. She did not think they were Pakistanis.
- She was being forced to admit things she had allegedly done. She was made to sign statements, some of which included information on phone calls she was said to have made.
- She has been tortured (but she provided no details).
- She was told by her captors that if she did not co-operate, her children would suffer (two of them are still missing).
- She said she did not know where her children were and it was not clear if they had been with her during her captivity.
- The assault case against her has no basis in fact.
- She expressed her lack of confidence in the court hearing her case and the US legal system.
- She said she didn’t trust the two lawyers who are representing her.
Aafia’s version is not basically different from what the human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Asian Human Rights Commission have been suspecting for long (and it is not just Aafia’s “family” or her “lawyers” who have been raising these allegations, although some news report attempt to give that impression). The importance of this meeting cannot be exagerrated because now, finally, Aafia has narrated her side of the story in her own words, however incoherent she might have been due to the stress she has gone through. The world has been wanting to hear her side of the story.
The most alarming part is the distrust she has shown about the two lawyers representing her case. In my opinion the issue needs immediate attention and questions need to be raised about how the case is being handled. Eyebrows were raised when her lawyers didn’t seek bail for her on August 11.
Also, the controversy about her mental instability. On two occasions when Pakistani representatives met her (August 9 and October 6), they reported that she was articulate and okay. Yet her own lawyers Elizabeth Fink and Elaine Whitfield Sharp as well as the US Attorney Michael Garcia have unanimously established a perception that she needs psychiatric evaluation, and their position has eventually led to her transfer to Texas.
Perhaps it will be remembered that Judicial Activism Panel (Pakistan) demanded as early as August 12 that the Pakistani government should allow a panel of Pakistani lawyers to visit the US to fight her case in the American court.
The issue here is more than just one case. By exploring this case with some responsibility, a lot of related issues about international law and justice can be brought to the front. I think it’s important and let’s focus our attention on what can be done in this regard, and soon. Already, more than two months have elapsed since the issue was brought to the US court on August 6.