Yvonne Ridley Press Statement on Pakistan Visit
Feb 28 2010
Statement from Yvonne Ridley
(Lahore, Pakistan )
I have come here today to speak to the government’s opposition parties in Pakistan – and the only opposition i see is the vibrant, challenging and independent media of this great country.
With the exception of Imran Khan, Tehreek e Insaf, Jamaat Islami and a few others, no one seems prepared to really challenge the Pakistan government other than the media.
I have heard a great deal of pompous invective, pledges and promises from the mouths of Pakistani government ministers and other elected politicians about how they will do their best to bring Dr Aafia Siddiqui home.
Abdul Basit, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry, insisted it has the welfare of Aafia Siddiqui at heart and the “ultimate objective is to get her back to Pakistan and we will do everything possible and we’ll apply all possible tools in this regard.”
Well, I can tell you today they have done nothing – absolutely zero for the daughter of Pakistan.
Lord Nazir Ahmed in Britain’s House of Lords has just returned to London from America to speak with senators and us congressmen about Aafia’s plight.
Most of them he spoke to had never heard of her – furthermore, he established no one, not one member of Zadari’s government, has even officially asked for Aafia’s return.
Instead they have spoken publicly and gone on TV to make big, tough, macho promises about how they will do everything in their power to bring Aafia home but privately they have done nothing and there are even those who are briefing some elements of the media against her.
Now, I am not in the business of naming and shaming but if I have to I will expose these weasels, these men without honour, who are doing worse than nothing to bring Aafia back – some are preventing her return. Why?
Why are they afraid of Dr Aafia Siddiqui? What does she know? What could she say?
Following the guilty verdict, one of Aafia Siddiqui’s defense attorneys, Elaine Sharp, broke her silence, when she said: “Aafia Siddiqui told us that she was picked up by Pakistani men in two black cars. These were people of Pakistani intelligence. ‘You know’ she said ‘ISI.’
ISI, military intelligence, whoever – the time is now to come clean about Aafia and the rest of Pakistan’s disappeared including Amina Janjua’s husband Masood and thousands of others.
And that message is also applicable to the us Ambassador Anne Patterson – she is either manipulating and distorting the facts about Aafia’s case and the other disappeared … or us intelligence have kept her totally out of the loop and she’s nothing more than window Dressing.
If she wants to play at being a patsy then so be it.
We are approaching the 8th anniversary of Aafia’s kidnap from the streets of Karachi in march 2003.
The then interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat gave assurances to the Siddiqui family that she would be returned within days, if not weeks but in return they must remain quiet and say nothing especially against the government or the then president Pervez Musharraf.
Around the same time, an investigating officer Shahid Qureshi submitted a written report to the judicial magistrates on charges related to the 2003 kidnapping of Dr Aafia and her three children. In these documents he wrote that the swoop was carried out by FBI intelligence agents without warrants or notice.
I think it is a given that us intelligence would not have done this without the cooperation of their well paid, corrupt friends in Pakistan’s intelligence services, ISI or military.
So you see the injustices against Aafia did not begin in America but on the streets of her own country – and despite what some us poodles will tell you, Aafia is a Pakistani citizen, not an American.
Although she has been in us custody longer than it takes most people to get us citizenship, so maybe she’s entitled to an American passport by now.
We now know that Aafia was held in Bagram for years – now I want to challenge Anne Patterson to dare call me a liar.
And to the international Red Cross – I challenge you to break your silence and reveal what you know about the Grey lady of Bagram, also known as Prisoner 650.
If I am a liar and a fantasist, prove it.
And for the record – I want you also to know that I am neither anti Pakistan nor anti American but I find the character of some politicians here and in the USA shameful. I thing ordinary decent Pakistani and American citizens would be appalled if they knew exactly what was being done in their name.
I know many of you were shocked when the Pakistan government made the unprecedented move of stepping up and paying $2 million dollars for a defense team for Aafia.
But what happened next may explain the motivation for this generous gesture. The Pakistan government became the client and therefore Aafia’s family ceased to be briefed by the lawyers who answered directly to the government.
As such the lawyers took instruction from the client – a client which happened to be as guilty as the Americans over the disappearance of Aafia in the first place.
Those lawyers did everything in their power to stop Aafia from giving evidence – the judge himself made it quite clear he was not interested in Aafia’s whereabouts since 2003 … and he really showed his contempt for the Pakistani media by shunting them off in to an overspill court, thereby introducing an apartheid system in an American court.
It was quite evident that Aafia would not receive justice even though all the scientific and forensic evidence was on her side.
The reality is there should never have been a trial because it was illegal.
How can a Pakistani, alleged to have committed crimes in Afghanistan, be put to trial in the US? She was not lawfully extradited to the US, she was renditioned there.
No other person has ever been put before the courts in America for a crime committed in another country – why so in this case?
Finally, it is quite clear that the US attorney is not finished with Aafia. She is now in complete isolation and has not had any contact with her brother Mohammed since before the trial nor after.
She is totally cut off and there are fears she is once again being interrogated. There is now a move to try and brand her a terrorist, something they were unable to do in the last court case. I really do not know how much more this poor woman can stand.
All I know is that we have to get her out of us custody – and bring her home to be reunited with her son … a son, by the way, who she did not recognise when she was reunited with him in Ghazni.
And where are the other two children – Maryam and let’s not forget little Sulymain. Unlike his brother and sister who have us citizenship, Sulyman is a Pakistani but that does not make his life worth anything less. That does not make him worthless or a lesser being.
Let’s not forget little Sulyman.
So, in conclusion, can we find some political leaders with backbone who will contact the American government directly and call for Aafia’s repatriation.
She should be returned on the following grounds;
The trial was completely within the wrong jurisdiction. If the story that the Americans has produced is true, why was Aafia not tried for war crimes within Afghanistan and handed over to afghan custody? The offence of shooting at us soldiers is significantly less than an attempted suicide attack against a governor with a child soldier in tow! They should have tried her for those crimes in the US.
Even if the shooting story is true – why was she removed from the country where all the evidence lay? She should have remained in Afghanistan where her legal team could have had better access to the evidence and witnesses.
As a female enemy combatant – why was she transferred to the US? She became the first person who is not a US national to be transferred to the US in such a circumstance.
The reality is that this trial should never have taken place and should have been thrown out on the point of jurisdiction. Most lawyers I’ve spoken to say the case should never have gone ahead in New York – on the above grounds alone it should have been thrown out.