The details about Aafiya Siddiqui’s case have been deeply clouded. From the beginning almost every aspect of the case appeared to be driven by sentiment rather than logic and the prevailing atmosphere was extremely irrational. This was enhanced by the fact that the accused is a woman and perceived as the victim than the perpetrator of a crime. The image of a very fragile woman, wounded, unconscious with a 12-year old child led many to jump to conclusions regarding her guilt or innocence. Furthermore, the details of the case are controversial and have many flaws.
Ms. Siddiqui’s personality has been described as that of a passionate, committed and religious woman from early age. While studying in the United States, she was involved with religious preaching and charitable work for Muslims. She became increasingly upset after the incident of 9/11 because in her opinion the American government was hostile towards Muslims, but at the same time she wanted to live in the U.S. despite her ex-husband’s insistence that they should move back to Pakistan.
In 2002, she and her ex-husband were interrogated by the FBI for buying military equipment online. An allegation was unearthed in 2004 that she visited Liberia in June 2001 to participate in the diamond trade to raise funds for Al Qaeda. If it was true than she was involved in terrorist activities prior to 9/11 then it would negate her so-called fears about American attitudes towards Muslims post-9/11. The claim that she visited Liberia is disputed. Her lawyer argues that during that time she was in the U.S. hosting play groups in her apartment.
While her disappearance is still a mystery, some facts have emerged:
She vanished in March 2003 following the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, her second husband’s uncle.
A few days later, the Pakistani press reported that she was picked up by Pakistani authorities. The spokesman of the Interior Ministry and 2 U.S. officials confirmed that she was in custody but later backtracked from that claim.
Afghan National Police announced her arrest on July 17, 2008. The circumstances of her arrest were dramatic. Afghan police said that she was seen in the compound of the Ghazni governor carrying a variety of objects including maps, photographs of sensitive locations, explosive material, and action plans for attacks in the U.S. on the CDs she had at the time of arrest.
Her ex-husband claimed that he saw her twice during that time, first in April 2003 at Islamabad Airport, and next in 2005 in a Karachi traffic jam.
Her uncle Shamsul Hassan Faruqi said that Siddiqui visited him on January 22, 2008.
She claimed that during the same time period she was in custody and wanted to cross the border to go to the Taliban.
She herself gave contradictory statements, claiming she worked for Pakistani intelligence agencies during this time, at the Karachi Institute of Technology in 2005, that she was in Afghanistan in 2007 and also stayed in Quetta sheltered by different people.
An Afghan official claimed that her eldest son told him that he and his mother worked in an office in Pakistan, collecting money for poor, and later on was dispatched to Afghanistan for some sort of mission.
Siddiqui said her two other children are dead. Her ex-husband said that he saw the children in Karachi and Islamabad during her disappearance
These are the major events which are clouded with suspicion. It seems that everyone is lying or bending the truth, and that the person who seems to be hiding the real information is Ms. Siddiqui herself.
The American government, which was claiming that she was an al-Qaeda member and portrayed her as terrorist and the most dangerous women in the world, finally indicted her for attempted murder. She was accused of snatching a rifle and shooting at US officials.
The details of the incident are controversial, because two eye witnesses gave contradictory evidence in court during the trial. Why did the prosecution only charge her with attempted murder, instead of terrorism — for which she has been interrogated? There might be some reasons for that. One, the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove the terrorism allegation in the court or second, an appeal may have been made that revealing classified information in open court could be harmful for the United States or its intelligence agencies. Whatever the reason, the case created many doubts.
Pakistani political parties including the government are trying to manipulate the case for their political gain, while the media is just promoting sensationalism and being provocative. It is playing with public sentiments without acknowledging the legal procedures.
Ms Siddiqui’s demeanor during the whole case was bizarre and ultimately self-incriminating, especially during the trial. Her split personality behavior in court was either exceptionally shrewd or evidence of a damaged psyche. On the one hand she tried to convince the court that she was unfit for the trial and the same time quite intelligently tried to get public sympathies. She repeatedly mentioned that she and her children were tortured in custody, buy refused to reveal the whereabouts of her children. She told the court that she did not trust the American judicial system.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani government paid two million dollars for her legal assistance, but she refused to cooperate with her lawyers. The Pakistani government also arranged for a three member delegation to visit her and get her version of the story, but she refused to see them. This while her family was constantly meeting with Pakistani officials and opposition leaders to get their support for her. She never asked them to stop these efforts.
The biggest problem in this case is that nobody is willing to speak truth. Everyone related to the case is trying to manipulate the facts for their benefits. Aafia Sidduqui has been convicted by the jury, and now court has set a date for the sentence. The charges she convicted for carry a sentence from minimum 30 years to life imprisonment. What will the Pakistani media and political parties gain from this case?
Did the government ever describe legal options that could be taken for the release of Ms Siddiqui? Is there any extradition agreement with the United States, and if yes than how it can be utilized to get Ms Siddiqui released? The media never bothered to take any rational approach about whole incident. A warm hug and nice smile still don’t help to get a favorable judicial decision in many parts of the world.
If Pakistan or the media want to help Ms Siddiqui then they can do so through proper legal procedures, and also Ms. Sidduqui needs to be part of it, otherwise it will be a suicidal mission through legal system. There is a system of appeal, which should be utilized. Will Ms. Siddiqui be willing to do that? That is a basic question.