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Respect The Law

January 30,2011


By Khurram Shafique


Judge Richard Burman has sentenced Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison. According to the report in Dawn, Dr. Siddiqui said to the audience after hearing the sentence, “Don’t get angry. Forgive Judge Berman.” Judge Berman repartee, apparently in scorn and sarcasm, was, “I wish more defendants would feel the way that you do.”

Nobody can say what implications this sentence carries for the world, US or Pakistan. A few things may be stated without fear of being contradicted though.

Before the common people in Pakistan and US even became aware of the existence of Aafia, she had already become well-known to human rights activists across the world as victim of abduction, rape and torture, whose minor children had also got abducted along with her. Pakistani, Afghan and US authorities were the accused in this case.

This was the world opinion in general. Since August 2008, the American media has been considerably successful in giving a different color to the story, alleging that Aafia had ties with al-Qaeda (a charge that was never brought up in the court at any point).

The power of mass media is itself its limitation: the news of tomorrow is bound to wipe out the news of today. Therefore with the passage of time, the world opinion viewing Aafia as a victim is likely to prevail over the perception created by the American media.

For US, the consequences could be disastrous in the long-term because nobody can say how its legal system is likely to be judged once the world opinion about Aafia prevails over the American media version.

For Pakistan, two implications have already been carved in stone. The heyday of liberal and progressive human rights activists like Aasma Jahangir is over and it is unlikely that they will ever regain the prestige they used to enjoy in the past. Their credibility as well as integrity has received a serious blow since it is perceived by many that these activists didn’t do as much as they should have done in this case, and that this was not procrastination but selfish interest on their part.

The same goes for the government of Pakistan. This government seems to be overlooking that the last round of troubles began for President Pervez Musharraf over the issue of “missing persons” and the demand for his impeachment gained support in the wake of the discovery of Aafia in July 2008. The present regime may have made a mistake by failing to behave any differently than Musharraf in this matter.

Last, but not the least, there is an implication for Muslims in general. In Verses 84-85 of Surah Baqarah (Chapter 2), God criticizes certain people because they banish some among themselves from homes and assist the enemies against them in transgression. The question likely to haunt Muslims, especially in Pakistan, is whether their own behavior in the case of Aafia in particular and the missing persons in general is any different from those whom God has cursed.


Original article published here

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