The Family of Aafia Siddiqui and the Aafia Movement welcome the news that it appears some steps are finally being taken towards the repatriation of Aafia Siddiqui, the daughter of our Nation. Of course the previous government also made numerous statements but neglected to follow through by actions. We are hopeful that this government will demonstrate by actions rather than words.
While we welcome Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s efforts and actions, there are certain clarifications we want to make regarding what is being said in the media and what we understand.
The Interior Ministry had received a letter from USA in 2010 regarding how sentenced prisoners can be repatriated. This was shared at a press conference by the then Interior Minister Rehman Malik. However it was never pursued.
There is a mention of two treaties:
1. The inter-American convention on serving criminals abroad 1993 and
2. The Convention of the Council of Europe on serving criminal sentences abroad.
Though technically both are similar they differ in that the inter-american treaty has fewer countries and involves USA directly and any prisoner can be returned within a month of ratification. The Council of Europe is a longer and more tedious process as America holds an observer status and many more countries are involved.
Of note is that these are NOT in any-way for prisoner SWAP or EXCHANGE or freedom. They only allow a convicted prisoner who has exhausted all legal options be sent to his/her country of citizenship to complete the sentence in home country.
According to the transfer of offenders ordinance 2002 now implemented by the legislature of Pakistan, the Interior Ministry has to initiate and direct the foreign office to proceed.
Since America has accessed the treaty, if Pakistan does so it will open a path to bring back several Pakistani prisoners serving inhumane sentences in the member countries and vice versa. We hope that one of them will be Aafia.
What the Interior Minister’s “Free Aafia task force committee” has recommended is a list of 10 points, according to media reports. The committee has refused to share those with Aafia’s family or lawyer, which makes one wonder if this hype is a bit premature or a smokescreen to dampen the growing support for Aafia and cool the sentiments of people during Ramadan. Dr. Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fowzia will go to Islamabad in the hope that the points are shared and a positive way forward can be achieved. Dr. Fowzia appreciates the committee’s rapid action and the Interior Minister’s resolve in this matter. She thanks the Media for its vigilance in this matter and hopes the media will clarify common myths and misunderstandings and continue to monitor practical follow through on the positive verbal statements.
In the end, the family of Dr. Aafia can only believe credible and documented efforts that achieve results. Years of rhetoric and broken promises at the highest levels have confirmed that words in the absence of results are either outright lies to sooth sentiments or demonstrate incompetence of the worst kind.
We, like all people of Pakistan, hope that this government will demonstrate results on all the challenges facing Pakistan. Aafia’s repatriation is an easy early result that will validate their sincerity about all issues.