Malik seeks Aafia's repatriation on humanitarian grounds
07 October, 2012
WASHINGTON: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has appealed to the US administration to repatriate jailed Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui to her home country on humanitarian grounds.
Malik, who met several top American officials, said he cited the plight of Aafia's ailing mother and the adverse impact of years of separation from her children, who intensely wanted to meet her and want her back with them.
"I raised the issue with the full force of Pakistani people's emotions. Let us hope the request is considered sympathetically," he told Washington-based Pakistani journalists at the end of a hectic schedule of meetings on Friday evening.
Malik met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman. "One way to deal with the situation resulting from Aafia's imprisonment here could be that she is allowed to complete the rest of her sentence in Pakistan," he suggested. He dismissed the notion that there could be a trade-off that Aafia be repatriated in exchange for release of Dr Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani, who worked for CIA in hunt for Osama bin Laden, and had been jailed by a tribal court for his links to militant organisations. "These are two totally different cases," Malik said.
"Afridi's first duty was to his country and if he had access to any information he should have shared it with the Pakistani government. Pakistani authorities are thoroughly probing to ascertain full details of Afridi's activities and motives," Malik said. In his meeting with Secretary Clinton, the minister thanked her for the US administration articulating a clear-cut and strong stand on the issue of an anti-Islam film, which caused uproar in the Muslim world. He noted that both US President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton deplored the contents of the film.
During his conversations with American officials, Malik also expressed the Pakistani people's concern on US drone attacks against suspected militant targets in the Tribal Areas. He said drones, however accurate, violated Pakistan's sovereignty.
Malik also discussed the issue of curbing availability of materials used by terrorists in improvised explosive devices (IED). "Half of the thousands of Pakistanis injured in retaliation against Islamabad's decade-old anti-militant campaign have been victims of IEDs," he said. He told American officials that Pakistan had taken strong measures to curb material used in such devices.
Malik said he also raised the issue of "aggression" coming from across the Afghan border, especially from the Kunar area into Pakistani border and Balochistan. He proposed Pakistan, Afghanistan and US to work together in a trilateral way to sort out cross-border issues and end the 'blame-game'.
He said he had pointed out the presence of militant leader Mullah Fazalullah and Maulvi Faqir on the Afghan soil and the support and arms emanating from Afghanistan for some elements in Balochistan. "We are victims and are suffering at the hands of terrorists operating from Afghan territory. We are fighting not only for Pakistan but also for the regional and world peace. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are victims of terror," he said.
Malik told media that evidence about arms flowing from Afghanistan into Pakistan came to light when a weapons-laden truck was discovered while passing through Chaman border. Talking about Haqqani network, the interior minister said it comprised of Afghans and operated in Afghanistan. He said, "Militants keep moving along the border and there is no evidence that Haqqanis operate out of Pakistan."