The US has offered Pakistan a deal to sign a prisoner swap agreement involving the extradition of Dr Aafia Siddiqui. If the agreement is signed, the Pakistani scientist will be allowed to serve the remaining part of her imprisonment in her homeland.
The spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Umar Hameed, confirmed that the US has offered Pakistan the prisoner swap agreement which will allow both countries to release each other’s prisoners.
According to documents acquired from Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, US state officials told Pakistan in writing that the only legal way for the extradition of Dr Siddiqui was to sign a prisoner swap agreement between the two countries.
It was also revealed that Pakistan’s Interior Ministry had formed a task force after the US offer which held its first session on July 3 to review the agreement. The task force was established under the directives of Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Dr Siddiqui, who is a neuroscientist, was sentenced to 86 years in prison after she was convicted of grabbing a US soldier’s M-4 assault rifle and trying to shoot a group of FBI agents and soldiers at an Afghan police compound in July 2008 – a charge she has consistently denied throughout the trial.
In a joint statement on Friday, the “Aafia Movement Pakistan” and the family of Dr Siddiqui welcomed the media reports that plans are being taken for an early repatriation of the “daughter of the nation”. The family and human rights activists urged the government of Nawaz Sharif to increase the efforts of Dr Siddiqui’s release in the right direction so that she can spend this Eid with her children.
In March 2003, Aafia Siddiqui and her three children were abducted by unknown authorities in Karachi. She had been missing for more than a year when the FBI put her photographs on its website. The Pakistani government as well as US officials in Washington denied any knowledge of her custody.
By 2008 many believed that after five years of disappearance, Aafia Siddiqui and her three children were most likely dead. But in July of that year, British journalist and human rights activist Yvonne Ridley and former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg publicly spoke about a “woman in Bagram” screaming, a woman whom they named the “Grey Lady of Bagram”.
A petition for habeas corpus was filed with the Pakistan High Court in Islamabad requesting that that the Pakistani government free Aafia Siddiqui or admit they were detaining her.
Within weeks, the US administration reported that Dr Siddiqui had been arrested by Afghani forces along with her 13 year-old son outside the governor of Ghazni’s compound, allegedly with manuals on explosives and “dangerous substances in sealed jars” in her possession. Her lawyers claim that the evidence was planted on her.
Dr Siddiqui was subsequently flown to New York in September 2010. She claimed that during her five year absence she was kidnapped by the Pakistani intelligence services (ISI) with her children and transferred to US custody. She further alleges that she was detained in a series of secret prisons for five years during which time she was repeatedly abused, tortured and raped.