Dr Aafia’s release: ‘Islamabad failed to act on time’

Incarcerated neuroscientist’s sister claims Washington offered Dr Aafia’s release against Raymond Davis, Brigadier Bowe Bergdahl

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Shamim Mehmood

Islamabad

The sister of Dr Aafia, a neuroscientist currently languishing in a prison in the States, claimed on Thursday that Islamabad failed to act on several occasions when Washington offered the doctor’s release in exchange for ‘their people’.

In an interview to a local TV channel, Fouzia Siddiqui said that the government had turned down an earlier offer to release Dr Aafia in exchange for Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who gunned down two men in Lahore in 2011.

She further said that Washington had also offered the release of her sister for Brigadier Bowe Bergdahl, a former US army officer who spent years in Afghan Taliban captivity until his release in 2014.

“There were several moments in which Aafia’s return could have been possible. There was the time of Raymond Davis. I have clear-cut evidence that US offered Aafia for his exchange. But for these people [Pakistan government], other things became higher priorities,” she said.

Fouzia said Pakistan also missed the opportunity of seeking a presidential pardon for her sister from former US President Barack Obama.

“He [Obama] gave pardon to several prisoners, but Pakistan again did not act on time,” she said.

‘Any comment on release premature’

Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Thursday said that the US government had yet to decide on the release of Dr Aafia.

The spokesperson further said that it would be premature to talk about her release, especially now at a stage when she has remained incarcerated since the past decade.

However, Dr Faisal assured that a dialogue between the two governments was on regarding her release.

“We have talked to US authorities over the matter, but the issue remains in a quandary since no decision has been taken for her release,” he said.

The spokesperson further said that the issue resonated with millions of Pakistanis and people were eager to see her released from detention and bought back to Pakistan.

Addressing the weekly press briefing in Islamabad, Dr Faisal said that while some headway had been made in the case, it would still be premature to talk about her release. “We have to bear in mind that the person in question (Dr Aafia) has remained in US custody since ten years.”

Dr Faisal told reporters that the matter was discussed with US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells during her November 6 visit to Islamabad. However, the matter remained inconclusive since her release could not be determined, he told reporters.

Pakistan has been persistent in its approach to take up the issue of the jailed neuroscientist. A Pakistani counsel-general stationed in Houston regularly meets Dr Aafia and inquires about her health and welfare, he said.

“Many of our countrymen currently languishing in America’s Guantanamo Bay including Saifullah Piracha, Majid Khan, Abdul Rabbani, Ammar Al-Baloshi and Ghulam Rabbani are currently under discussions to be freed. We are working so that this process may be expedited,” Dr Faisal said.

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