Washington: Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer said Friday that they have written to the Embassy of Pakistan in United States (US) to repatriate Dr Siddiqui in exchange for Dr Shakil Afridi, and are also in touch with members of the US Congress on the issue.
Dr Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison on charges of firing on a US soldier in Bagram. US authorities accuse Dr Siddiqui of helping al Qaeda, notably Majid Khan, a Guantanamo detainee who recently pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
On the other hand, Pakistan intelligence agencies arrested Dr Shakil Afridi, a US spy, working for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in trying to ascertain al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s identity in the Abbotabad compound through a fake polio vaccination campaign. A tribal court later convicted Dr Afridi for helping a militant group and sentenced to 33 years in jail.
Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer, Tina Foster, said that they had sent a letter to the Ambassador Sherry Rehman, asking Pakistan to take action to repatriate Dr Siddiqui. However, Foster said that the Embassy of Pakistan has not sent her any “substantiative response” on the letter despite having acknowledged receiving it.
In response to Foster, Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesperson for the Embassy of Pakistan said that Pakistani authorities have been pressing US authorities to repatriate Dr Siddiqui ever since she was in US custody.
The Pakistani Embassy official said “Ms Foster did raise the matter of a possible exchange of Shakil Afridi with Dr Aafia. The matter was referred to the concerned authorities in Pakistan. It is not the place of the embassy to unilaterally create a response without Islamabad’s approval.”
Hotiana said that Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer has been told that her suggestions were forwarded to Islamabad.
“The embassy essentially had a liaison role in all matters relating to Pakistan-US relations. Decisions were taken by the relevant authorities in the capital.”
It is to be mentioned that during the arrest of a US diplomat Raymond Davis, who killed three Pakistani citizens in Lahore, different political factions urged Pakistan government to exchange Dr Aafia for Davis but later the diplomat was freed by a lower court for the exchange of money to the victim families.