While in New York last week I raised the following question of a number of Pakistani leaders who were present for a well attended graduation program at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York (aka, the 96th Street Mosque): "Why is there so much apathy and indifference in the Pakistani-American community, esp. among its "leaders," towards the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? "(It is my humble view that Pakistani-Americans of all stripes should be in the forefront of the national campaign for Aafia's release.)
In each instance that I raised this question I got the following response, "I don't know" (or just silence). It wasn't until I raised the question to a knowledgeable and forthright Pakistani brother in northern New Jersey (before leaving the area) that I received a more honest and affirmative response: "They are afraid!," he stated - referring to the Pakistani leadership establishment in the U.S. (and those who blindly follow their counterproductive lead).
With that said, it pleases me to note that there are (finally) a couple of well established and prominent Pakistani-American organizations willing to publicly make a statement in support of Aafia's release and repatriation. Please read the following release, and share it with others. It comes courtesy of the American Muslim Alliance newsletter. - Mauri Saalakhan
Pakistani-Americans Demand Repatriation of Dr Aafia Before Release of Dr Shakil Afridi to US
Washington, D. C. - 07/09/12: The Pakistan American Democratic Forum (PADF), a grassroots organization founded in 1982 in support of Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), and the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Bay Area Chapter, have urged both the US and the Pakistan governments to a) institute legal mechanisms for prisoner-transfer, and b) release Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan's custody before Dr. Shakil Afridi is to be released to US custody.
The joint statement by Pakistani-American groups reads in part:
While Pakistani authorities have repeatedly made representations that avenues for Dr. Siddiqui's repatriation are being pursued, there have been no actions taken to move this forward.
Meanwhile, Dr. Siddiqui's health continues to deteriorate, and there is no end in sight to long legal battles that may continue for years to come.
The repatriation of Dr. Siddiqui to Pakistan, where she can be reunited with her children, would do a great deal toward mending the fast-deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistani governments. As Pakistani-Americans, we would be particularly heartened by such a break in the status quo - which has left us with the impression that neither government is willing to guarantee the rights of Pakistani citizens to fair and equal treatment under human rights conventions and international treaties.
The Pakistani government should refuse to transfer any person to US custody until Dr. Siddiqui's repatriation is complete. The US government's failure to consult and obtain Pakistan's consent prior to transferring Dr. Siddiqui from Afghanistan to the US for trial in July 2008 was illegal as a matter of international law; a position supported by Ms. Tina Foster and other U.S. legal experts. The US must rectify this injustice prior to seeking cooperation from Pakistan on future prisoner transfers.
Within the United States a wide array of law-makers have been publicly agitating in recent months for the release of Dr. Shakil Afridi from Pakistani custody. A similar situation occurred last year, when Pakistani authorities were asked to release "Raymond Davis" to US custody.
Unfortunately, in the Davis case, the government of Pakistan failed to take the opportunity to secure Dr. Siddiqui's repatriation prior to releasing Mr. Davis to US custody. The unilateral transfer of Dr. Afridi, like Mr. Davis before him, will simply perpetuate the notion that the government of Pakistan is unwilling to demand fair treatment for its citizens in the face of US government pressure.
As Pakistani-Americans, the repatriation of Dr. Siddiqui -- the daughter of the nation -- would symbolize hope for new era of US-Pakistani relations based on mutual respect and understanding.
For More Information, Contact:
M. Saeed Chaudhary: 408-476-1099
On a closing note, there is a highly relevant quote from Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, on the back of a book that we released a few months ago titled, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui -Other Voices:
"The U.S. Government demanded the immediate return of a U.S. national [Raymond Davis] who admitted to killing two [Pakistani] civilians. For its part, the U.S. Government was willing to go so far as to threaten to sever diplomatic relations between the two nations in order to secure the repatriation of this individual, despite the fact that he had murder charges pending against him in a Pakistani court. If the Government of Pakistan was willing to take the same position to secure the return of Dr. Siddiqui, her return would be a surety."
I couldn't agree more! The struggle continues...