Dr.

Afia Siddiqui

Dr. Afia Siddiqui
The Asian Human Rights Commission issued an urgent press release about a Pakistani, Dr. Afia Siddiqui, who has been missing from Pakistan for over four years, since 2003. Her kidnapping has since then been denied by both American and Pakistani governments but actually she has been suspected of being an operative of Al-Qaeda and has been on FBI’s wanted list. There is reason to believe that she is also one of the missing persons who had been ‘handed over’ to the Americans courtesy of Pervaiz Musharraf. Let us not forget that the missing persons case was a turning point in the history of Pakistan where Pervaiz Musharraf had a severe falling out with the then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry who was investigating this case and probably stepped on a few toes definitely ended up rumbling a few skeleton locked within Musharraf’s treasure chest of hidden secrets. Dr. Afia Siddiqui left her mother’s house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Sindh province, along with her three children, in a Metro-cab on March 30, 2003 to catch a flight for Rawalpindi, Punjab province, but never reached the airport. The press reports claimed that Dr. Afia had been picked-up by Pakistani intelligence agencies while on her way to the airport and initial reports suggested that she was handed over to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the time of her arrest she was 30 years and the mother of three sons the oldest of which was four and the youngest only one month. A few days later an American news channel, NBC, reported that Afia had been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of facilitating money transfers for terror networks of Osama Bin Laden. The mother of the victim, Mrs. Ismat (who has since passed away) termed the NBC report absurd. She went on to say that Dr. Afia is a neurological scientist and has been living with her husband, Amjad, in the USA for several years. On April 1, 2003, a small news item was published in an Urdu daily with reference to a press conference of the then Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat. When questioned with regard to Dr. Afia’s arrest he denied that she had been arrested. This was followed by another Urdu daily article on April 2 regarding another press conference in which the same minister said Dr. Afia was connected to Al Qaeda and that she had not been arrested as she was absconding. He added: “You will be astonished to know about the activities of Dr. Afia” A Monthly English magazine of Karachi in a special coverage on Dr. Afia reported that one week after her disappearance, a plain clothed intelligence went to her mother’s house and warned her, “We know that you are connected to higher-ups but do not make an issue out of

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

your daughter’s disappearance.” According to the report the mother was threatened her with ‘dire consequences’ if she made a fuss. Whilst Dr. Afia’s whereabouts remain unknown, there are reports of a woman called ‘Prisoner 650′ is being detained in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison and that she has been tortured to the point where she has lost her mind. Britain’s Lord Nazeer Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650 who, according to him is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at prison. Lord Nazeer has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other prisoners. Also, on July 6, 2008 a British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, for over four years. “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference. Ms Ridley, who went to Pakistan to appeal for help, said the case came to her attention when she read the book, The Enemy Combatant, by a former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg. After being seized in February 2002 in Islamabad, Mr Begg was held in detention centres in Kandahar and Bagram for about a year before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recounted his experiences in the book after his release in 2005. Mr. Imran Khan, leader of Justice Party (T.I) suspects that prisoner 650 is the Dr. Afia Siddiqui and USA and Pakistani authorities are hiding facts of ‘Prisoner 650′. To date, neither the American nor the Pakistani government has come out about the arrest and detention of Dr. Afia in either Bagram or Guantanamo Bay where suspected terrorists are held. On December 30, 2003 Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui, Dr. Afia’s elder sister met with Mr Faisal Saleh Hayat at Islamabad with Mr Ejazul Haq, MNA, regarding the whereabouts of Dr. Afiai. Mr Faisal told Dr. Fawzia and Mr Ejazul Haq that according to his information Dr. Afia Siddiqui had already been released and that she (Dr. Fawzia) should go home and wait for a phone call from her sister.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Dr. Afia Siddiqui, who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, for about 10 years and did her PhD in genetics, returned to Pakistan in 2002. Having failed to get a suitable job, she again visited the US on a valid visa in February 2003 to search for a job and to submit an application to the US immigration authorities. She moved there freely and came back to Karachi by the end of February 2003 after renting a post office box in her name in Maryland for the receipt of her mail. It has been claimed by the FBI (Newsweek International, June 23, 2003, issue) that the box was hired for one Mr Majid Khan, an alleged member of Al Qaeda residing in Baltimore.

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

Throughout March 2003 flashes of the particulars of Dr. Afia were telecast with her photo on American TV channels and radios painting her as a dangerous Al Qaeda person needed by the FBI for interrogation. On learning of the FBI campaign against her she went underground in Karachi and remained so till her kidnapping. The June 23, 2003, issue of Newsweek International was exclusively devoted to Al Qaeda. The core of the issue was an article “Al Qaeda’s Network in America”. The article has three photographs of so-called Al Qaeda members – Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Dr. Afia Siddiqui and Ali S. Al Marri of Qatar who has studied in the US like Dr. Siddiqui and had long since returned to his homeland. In this article, which has been authored by eight journalists who had access to FBI records, the only charge leveled against Dr. Afia is that “she rented a post-office box to help a former resident of Baltimore named Majid Khan (alleged Al Qaeda suspect) to help establish his US identity. NewsLine while doing a story in 2003 – Mysterious Cover-up Mazhar Abbass reports that. Surprisingly there has been no official report registered with the police about Afia’s disappearance which explains why Afia’s mother wanted to avoid going public. The police, meanwhile, is doing nothing to trace Afia. “We have no knowledge about this case nor has anyone contacted me,” said Sindh police chief, Syed Kamal Shah. Ismat Siddiqui, however, claims that she has spoken to high police officials, including Shah, about her daughter’s disappearance. A week after the incident, Mrs. Siddiqui alleges that an intelligence agency official came to her house and warned her not to make an issue out of her daughter’s disappearance and threatened her with dire consequences. Daily Times gives a detailed account of her mysterious disappearance in 2004 – The strange story of Aafia Siddiqui Months later, the FBI would make its most devastating claim against Siddiqui. It was still dark on the morning of March 1, 2003, when Pakistani authorities arrested Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a known September 11 mastermind, at a Karachi safe house. The arrest made news around the world. It also presaged the extraordinary vanishing act of AafiaSiddiqui and her three small children.” It seems Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave up Aafia’s name as being a major Al Qaeda operative.” However, one of her defenders saysSiddiqui ’s identity was likely stolen. “Aafia was, I think, probably a pretty naive and trusting person and my guess is it would be pretty easy for somebody who wanted to steal an identity to just steal it.” About a month after his capture in the spring of 2003, she disappeared. The question is where is Afia and why are police and intelligence agencies silent? Is she in the custody of the FBI or the ISI? Another possibility is that Afia might have been kidnapped by her ex-husband, who may have links with Al-Qaeda. Whatever the case, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to hush up the mysterious circumstances behind Afia Siddiqui’s disappearance

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

Her mysterious disappearance story
Dr. Afia Siddiqui left her mother's house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Sindh province, along with her three children, in a Metro-cab on March 30, 2003 to catch a flight for Rawalpindi, but never reached the airport. The press reports claimed that Dr. Afia had been picked-up by Pakistani intelligence agencies while on her way to the airport and initial reports suggested that she was handed over to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the time of her arrest she was 30 years and the mother of three sons the oldest of which was four and the youngest only one month. (Still there is no news about her three children.) A few days later an American news channel, NBC, reported that Afia had been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of facilitating money transfers for terror networks of Osama Bin Laden. A Monthly English magazine of Karachi in a special coverage on Dr. Afia reported that one week after her disappearance, a plain clothed intelligence went to her mother's house and warned her, "We know that you are connected to higher-ups but do not make an issue out of your daughter's disappearance." According to the report the mother was threatened her with 'dire consequences' if she made a fuss. Dr. Afia Siddiqui, who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, for about 10 years and did her PhD in genetics, returned to Pakistan in 2002. Having failed to get a suitable job, she again visited the US on a valid visa in February 2003 to search for a job and to submit an application to the US immigration authorities. She moved there freely and came back to Karachi by the end of February 2003 after renting a post office box in her name in Maryland for the receipt of her mail. It has been claimed by the FBI (Newsweek International, June 23, 2003, issue) that the box was hired for one MrMajid Khan, an alleged member of Al Qaeda residing in Baltimore. Throughout March 2003 flashes of the particulars of Dr. Afia were telecast with her photo on American TV channels and radios painting her as a dangerous Al Qaeda person needed by the FBI for interrogation. On learning of the FBI campaign against her she went underground in Karachi and remained so till her kidnapping. The June 23, 2003, issue of Newsweek International was exclusively devoted to Al Qaeda. The core of the issue was an article "Al Qaeda's Network in America". The article has three photographs of so-called Al Qaeda members - Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Dr. Afia Siddiqui and Ali S. Al Marri of Qatar who has studied in the US like Dr. Siddiqui and had long since returned to his homeland. In this article, which has been authored by eight journalists who had access to FBI records, the only charge leveled against Dr. Afia is that "she rented a post-office box to help a former resident of Baltimore named Majid Khan (alleged Al Qaeda suspect) to help establish his US identity.

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

At a news conference in May 2004, US Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI DirectorRobert Mueller announced that the FBI was looking for seven people with suspected ties to Al Qaeda. MIT graduate and former Boston resident Aafia Siddiqui was the only woman on the list. The prisoner No. 650 at the notorious US prison at Bargham, Afghanistan Dr. Afia’s plight was highlighted by a British journalist and peace activist, Yvonne Ridley, who flew to Pakistan to address a press conference in Islamabad on July 7, 2008. “Today I am crying out for help, not for myself but for a Pakistani woman neither you nor I have ever met. She has been held in isolation by the Americans in Afghanistan and she needs help,” Ridley told a crowded press conference. Ridley first learnt about the woman while reading a book by Guantanamo exdetainee Moazzam Begg. One of the four Arabs who escaped from the infamous Bagram cell in July 2005 also told a television channel that he had heard a woman’s cries and screams in the prison but never saw her. Ridley called her the Grey Lady of Bagram because she was almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her. The woman is registered as Prisoner number 650 and the US officials can’t deny the fact, Ridley said. “I demand that the US military free the Grey Lady immediately. We don’t know her identity, we don’t know her state of mind and we don’t know the extent of the abuse or torture she has been subjected to.” On 24th July the Asian Human Rights Commission issued an Urgent Appeal in the case of the disappearance of a lady doctor. Amid public protests in Pakistan, on August 1, an FBI official visited the house of Dr. Afia’s brother in Houston to deliver the news that she is alive and in custody. One week later she was produced in a New York court where even the Judge judge expressed surprise at the quick extradition of Dr. Afia from Afghanistan to New York noting that in such a short period one could not extradite a person from Bronx (a New York Borough) to Manhattan.

Thousands of missing persons in Pakistan
Dr. Afia is one of Pakistan's thousands of missing people who disappeared in custody, allegedly after being rounded up by the security agencies as part of “antiterror campaigns” at the behest of the U.S. Her case should re-focus attention on those missing people. Thousands of Pakistanis are missing and their families say that they were picked up by security agencies on the hunt for terror suspects. Last year, several officials, including President Musharrafacknowledged some of the detentions, arguing that they were a necessary part of the crackdown on “regional terrorism.”

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

In June this year, the Asian Human Rights Commission identified 52 illegal detention centers in Pakistan, though there was no indication whether these were being overseen by the CIA or had international connections. The Asian Human Rights Commission reported that after filing a habeas corpus writ petition in the Islamabad High Court, Dr. Afia’s friends and relatives were threatened by several state agencies of Pakistan to withdraw the case or face the same situation. Dr. Aafia's story has yet to clarify the extent to which the Musharraf regime has been involved in illegal detentions and transfers of suspects to US authorities. Not surprisingly, the United States is against the restoration of an independent judiciary in Pakistan that may again take up the cases of hundreds of missing persons apparently kidnapped by intelligence agencies and handed over to the US. Musharraf sacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Mohammad and other independent judges last year after they began questioning security agencies about missing persons’ cases and demanded that those held in illegal detention be produced in courts.

Misuse of US judicial system
Dr. Afia’s bail application has been rejected and if recent court cases against the Muslims have any resonation, it appears that the FBI will try to keep her behind the bars indefinitely even if she is acquitted by a jury. More than two and half years, after failing to convict Palestinian activist and a former professor of South Florida University, Dr. Sami al-Arian, before a Florida jury, the government has continued to use all means to prolong his confinement. Dr. alArian has completed his nearly five-year prison term but remains in custody. Only three weeks before his scheduled release date of April 7, 2008 he was informed on March 19 that he would be called to testify before a third grand jury in Virginia. On June 25, 2008, he was indicted on two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. On July 10, at a bail hearing at Alexandria, Virginia, Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered Dr. Sami Al-Arian, released but he remained in prison since the judge refused to block immigration authorities from detaining him as a prelude to his deportation. Similarly, in November 2007, Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a PalestinianAmerican and former professor at Washington's Howard University, was sentenced to more than 11 years imprisonment for refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into possible terror financing in the Middle East. Tellingly, in February 2007 Dr. Ashqar was acquitted of all terror-related charges.

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Dr. Afia Siddiqui

The twisted story of Dr. Afia’s arrest is one of the strangest since the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation may be right when it says: “If aPhD from Brandeis (Harvard) in behavioral neuroscience needs to keep documents in front of her to make explosives, it must be a very poor standard of education. And if GIs can pass on guns to ‘dangerous criminals’ in custody, the superpower needs to have better trained, tougher soldiers to keep its global overlordship. It seems secret agents everywhere are adept at fabricating charges that cannot bear scrutiny.” It will not be too much to say that the insinuation, that she had been hiding herself since 2003, is a travesty of the truth and an affront to people’s common sense. Dr Aafia’s case is a reminder of the grave injustice done to many people in the US detention facilities in Bagram in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and elsewhere.

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