A Tale of Two Prisoners
Aafia and Raymond
by Fowzia Siddiqui
On February 3, 2010, a New York court convicted Aafia. The charge against her was an ATTEMPT to kill Americans. For that she was sentenced to 86 years in prison and is being kept in total isolation. The trial was framed by Judge Richard Berman in a way that there would be no mention of her kidnapping from Karachi in 2003 or any mention of Aafia and her three children being held and tortured in secret prisons.
Almost exactly a year later, we are witnessing a drama in Pakistan involving an American mercenary who killed two Pakistani youths in broad daylight and his friends who proceeded to kill another Pakistani in an effort to help him escape to the US consulate.
Those who proclaim the Rule of Law are now using every trick in the book to avoid that same Rule of Law. Those who champion human rights are scrambling to figure out how to turn a cold blooded killer into a wronged victim. Those who were too cowardly to even write a single letter for someone they called “Daughter of the Nation” are working overtime to subvert the laws of the nation whose people they swore to serve.
They talk of diplomatic protocol and the Vienna Convention. Well, where was this Vienna convention when Aafia was picked up from Pakistan and in Ghazni? Where were her consular rights (Article 36 of the Vienna convention)? But she was a Pakistani. This man, of course, is not. When did the Vienna convention become a one way treaty? Or maybe it always was. Maybe all treaties are. So why do we have them or need them?
Why all this hurry to bury? What does Raymond know? Or more importantly, what was he doing? What are they afraid will come out in an open, independent and fair investigation and trial? Are they afraid that the same things could get exposed that they feared when they shut Aafia away? After all, they all worked equally hard to ensure that Aafia never sees the light of day and now they want to free Davis immediately. Well, I have news for them: All those dirty secrets will come out, if not today, then tomorrow. As an American singer famously said: “The times, they are a changing”.
We are watching an attempt to turn a cold blooded killer into a wronged victim. The Imperial Raj with its local Nawabs has become the Military Raj with its politician Nawabs. We have seen the morphine of false hopes they use to calm us. The politics of division they employ to keep us from uniting. That is why we rejected any offer of a deal for our framed Aafia and their exposed Raymond.
We are a rich, proud and generous nation that has been brought to its knees by an addiction to foreign aid, social hypocrisy and distrust of each other. We demand respect from others when we have none for ourselves and our own countrymen. Respect is not demanded, it is earned. Before we demand it from others let us earn it among ourselves. We must value each other as human beings whose lives are worth no less than our own.
Aafia had given us the litmus test. Mr. Davis has just renewed the challenge and with a taunt. Now we can all see clearly where each of us stands, where our leaders stand, where our judges stand, where our liberals stand, where our conservatives stand. We can clearly see what value each group places on a Pakistani life.
The value of a Pakistani is central to our existence in the world today. We are a punching bag for everyone around the world, a convenient target for blaming all ills. Our religion, our culture, our resilience and our honor are ridiculed and we let it happen.
We let the drones kill innocent villagers in the northwest. But these were Pathans,Taliban, or whatever. It wasn’t “us”.
We let bombs go off across Punjab. But these were the Punjabis; the Taliban again, or just fanatics. It wasn’t “us”.
Killings go on every day in Karachi. Muhajir trouble makers or Sindhi trouble makers or Pathans again. Not “us”.
People disappear and die all over Baluchistan. But these are Baluchi separatists. Not “us”.
Aafia and hundreds like her are sold, renditioned, and tortured. Must be guilty of something. Anyway, not “us”.
We are part of all those people and they are part of us. Whether we like it or not, this is our family, complete with the beautiful and the ugly.
To those Pakistanis who hate Aafia, she is still one of you and you are one of us. How she is treated and how we stand up for her will define the level of respect we earn. Just look at what the Americas are doing for their Raymond. He is no boy scout but he is their citizen and they are fighting for him.
On this anniversary of Aafia’s conviction, that wound is still deep and fresh. God has given us momentum. I do not know His purpose but somehow Aafia’s fate is intertwined with our motherland in a way that justifies her being called the “Daughter of the Nation”. She offers a unifying theme that transcends political and ethnic and religious differences. She is the issue that will not go away.
On this day Mr. Davis reminds us again of how little respect we command and how little our leaders care and how openly they lie. Raymond showed the same wild west mentality as the US warrant officer who shot Aafia in 2008.
Finally, the most honored moment for me this past week was the opportunity I had to meet the families of the victims of Raymond’s rampage. These are the people who give me faith in Pakistan. The spirit of our nation lives in the hearts and actions of the millions of ordinary people whose simple faith, generosity, and optimism for a better day leaves me speechless. I met three mothers, two pregnant wives and other family members. I know their grief and anger, but in all of this, they offered to drop charges against Raymond and forgo compensation if that brings Aafia home, even though there is no comparison between her tragic experience and his crimes. Such feeling for the sake of another person whom they do not even know has touched our family to the core. We were advised to push for a deal and it was tempting, but seeing these pained mothers and their offer, it became clear that there can be no deal on their pain.
I pray that we can achieve this sense of brotherhood with each other. By worldly measure these people are not wealthy, but this is the spirit that will resurrect Pakistan. Any leader who betrays these people the way Aafia was betrayed can only look into a mirror and feel ashamed.
The Aafia Movement is founded on principle, not politics. Its goal is to unify the nation behind a simple cause – Bring Aafia back home with honor. When we learn to rise for the honor of our daughter we will have risen for our honor. When our religious and secular parties unite for Aafia we demonstrate that we are one nation. When Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Parsees unite for Aafia we will tell the world that the white stripe in our flag has truth. When Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis, Muhajirs, Baluchis and Kashmiris unite for Aafia I know that our nation lives. When I saw all political Parties lower their flags in favor of the national flag in honor of Aafia, I knew that deep down we all want to be proud Pakistanis.
How we react to the fates of these two prisoners will be our legacy. Let us make it a legacy of dignity, not shame.