Dawood Ghazanavi: The Story of Affia Siddiqui

Dawood is a Pakistani English American human rights lawyer. Here, he discusses the case of Affia Siddiqui, and the urgent need to seek justice for her.

I have been grown up in between America, England, and Pakistan. I did my education in England when I was seventeen, and I moved to England, and I went to college in England, and then University, and at the same time, I did my bar exams in England as well. Then, I moved back to Pakistan, and when I moved back to Pakistan, my main prime objective was to do all of the cases that have public value, and for that, I joined the Supreme Court of Pakistan rather than the lower courts of Pakistan because the public at large will only be seen and can only be taken care of if you fire those cases and those case would only possible in the Supreme Courts of Pakistan. 

During my trip to America, everybody asked me to raise the voice of one of the Pakistani prisoners, which is very controversial, during the time of War and Terror, her name is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani citizen and considered to be one of the most controversial figures during the time of War and Terror. She came to America in 1990 to be enrolled in Houston University and then afterward she went to MIT University where she did her Undergrad Degree in Biology, and then moved on to Brandeis University where she did her PhD and Masters as well. Then, right after 9/11, she moved back to Pakistan in 2002, she was married and had three kids. Then, what interestingly happened in 2003, she was disappeared from Pakistan along with her three kids. At that time rumors and certain news came up that she has been the victim of Extra-Ordinary Rendition, the program which was done by the US, where they were interrogating people and sending people to different secret prisons around the globe. But for the next five years, from 2003-2008, she was missing, and there were a lot of stories in America, she was being implicated in many Al-Qaeda conspiracies at that time. She was being called through a lot of different names like Lady Al-Qaeda, then afterwards being said that she was the biggest terrorist, she’s a ring leader, she’s a finance fixer for Al-Qaeda, all these accusations came up during those five years. 

In 2008, she was found in Ghazni, Afghanistan, outside the compound of the Ghazni governor, when she was arrested by the Afghan police officials and was taken to the Afghan Police Station. This is where a story came up that she has tried to shoot six American officials that have come to interview her, but instead, she was been shot in her stomach, two shots in her stomach, and was taken to Baghram American Hospital, where she was being treated and after fourteen years, she was charged with attempted murder against the American official and was being renditioned to American South District Court. 

This is where the trial of Aafia Siddiqui started, but all this mystery behind where she was for the last five years during 2003-2008 is still a mystery because the people in Pakistan and the Muslim world believed that she was being tortured in the secret prison because of her missing five years that have never been investigated. They use her plight even today, in the past to recruit people in Pakistan and the Muslim world, that all those Muslim countries’ governments are the puppets and stooges of the west and they sell out their people to the Americans. This narrative is still strong, and it has a voice, name any terrorist organization that has not talked about Aafia, which has not claimed her, everybody has claimed her plight, and they are using that plight. 

So my point to both governments is that I am not in any favor of releasing her free to society right now, which they cannot do because of her mental issues, but I believe that if you change her location of imprisonment, then definitely this anti-American animus around the globe can cut down and the fueling of those organizations based on her name which could be really reduced. So, I am trying to see the counter-terrorism narrative from this case. So if I conclude, my point of view on this case is that it’s very simple, that I believe in this haste, in this War of Terror, a lot of bad things have happened just on the good intentions as I have explained before, but if we go back to cases now and we want to see what is of best interest not for the people of Pakistan but of the region where this war has fought, think about the fact that Pakistan has given thousands of lives, Pakistan has compromised its sovereignty for this war in terror. 

So being a Pakistani citizen, I am representing the people of Pakistan’s point of view, I am representing that they are being saddened, they are being hurt by what has happened. So now when I find that Aafia’s link with Al-Qaeda has not been established until yet to the point where you can say that she is a terrorist, secondly, she is a mentally ill patient in American Medical Center where she is going to stay for the next seventy years, and what kind of American interest she is going to damage if she is being repatriated to Pakistan with this mental state of mind. So I would advise the Americans and give my opinion that to counter terrorism, I feel like her location of imprisonment must be changed. 

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