As of 4th February 2010, social networking website Facebook has 15 fan pages and 22 groups of Aafia Siddiqui with 34,000 and 40,000 members respectively. She has been the highlight of across the electronic and online media including popular talk shows, newspapers and magazines, blogs, forums and chat rooms.
There have also been rallies, protests and demonstrations involving 1000s of people in support for her in all big cities of Pakistan.
Let’s assume that Aafia is completely innocent and she was tortured and kept in prison by U.S soldiers and then framed for false shooting attempt.
Is all the above hysteria justified to get Aafia Siddiqui justice?
Well I have no problems with this hysteria but why did we not see this in the case of two other missing Pakistani women?
One is Zarina Mari and the other is Dr Shazia Khalid. Majority of Pakistanis do not even know their names, considering how Aafia Siddiquee is a popular enough figure in Pakistan that even the Taliban are now demanding her release from the U.S.
Zarina Mari, similar to Aafia Siddiqui in relation to abduction, rape and torture allegations, was abducted by the Pakistani army from Baluchistan in 2005 and is believed to be kept in an army torture cell in Karachi. She is a 23 year old school teacher and according to human rights organizations (Asian Human Rights Commission, HRCP Pakistan), Baluchistan Political Parties, Baluch and other activists, she has been kept in cells and forced to work as a sex slave. Former prisoners from the torture cells also narrated her stories. Mr. Munir Mengal, the managing director of a Balochi-language television channel, claims to have witnessed this sexual slavery in a Karachi based torture cell (Click here to Munir Mengal Interview). According to Asian Human rights commission of Pakistan, “the current whereabouts of the young woman are not known. It has been asserted that women who are fighting for the greater autonomy of Baluchistan are being arrested by the state agencies and being forced into their custody as sex slaves”.
Dr Shazia Khalid, a medical doctor and an employee of Pakistan Petroleum Limited, was brutally beaten and raped by an army officer named Captain Hammad at Sui Hospital in 2005. Subsequently she was denied by the officials to contact her husband and other family members and instead of providing her treatment for her wounds; the officials drugged her and then transferred her to a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. Later she was put under house arrest and was denied access to lawyers, doctors and human right officials of her choice.
She later left Pakistan with her family after repeated threats to her life. According to her BBC interview, Dr. Shazia said that she was threatened many times. “I cannot tell you how many times I was threatened. My life was made impossible. I am still terrified.” “My whole career was destroyed, as was my husband’s. That was why we left our country.” “Instead of getting justice, I was hounded out of Pakistan. I never wanted to leave Pakistan, but had no choice”. The video interview is in the reference section and I earnestly request every Pakistani to listen to that interview.
Few questions come to my mind when I go through the stories of these women:
Why are Zarina Mari and Shazia Khalid, like Aafia, not called the “Daughters” and “Sisters” of Pakistan by its hyperbolic media, politicians and public?
Why have Imran Khan (Former Playboy and Aka Neo Taliban) and Jamate Islami never voiced their concerns about these women with the same intensity as for Aafia Siddiqui. Remember that Imran’s party warned to go for mass demonstrations after Aafia’s conviction?
Why was Shazia Khalid’s and Zarina Mari’s families never interviewed by Pakistani TV channels?
Why was Shazia Khalid’s interview to the BBC never aired by the so called “free” Pakistani electronic media?
Why have we not seen mass scale demonstrations in Pakistan for the justice for these two women?
Why are pictures of Shazia Khalid not the highlight of every newspaper, TV channel and Pakistani activist’s blogs as pictures of Aafia are?
Why there is not a single group or fan page of either Zarina Mari or Shazia Khalid on Face book?
To summarize, why do people in Pakistan worry more about Aafia than these women?
The reason is quite simple and its not that Pakistanis genuinely care about Aafia or any other women for that matter. They don’t give a damn about how many women get oppressed or suffer from torture in extra judicial detentions. Fortunately for Aafia, she was abducted by United States of America. This is the core reason why we have witnessed the massive difference of reaction in the Pakistani media, among political parties and public between the cases of Aafia and the other two women. The elements in Pakistan who choose to stay silent on Zarina Mari’s issue but not on Aafia Siddiqui’s case were not actually expressing concerns about her detention or some abuse by the U.S forces. They were simply exploiting this case to express their political hatred against the U.S.
United States, thanks to its policies, is the most despised country in Pakistan after India. Unfortunately for Zarina Mari and Shazia Khalid, the culprit who is accused of being responsible for their problems is the Pakistan army who is trusted by Pakistani nationalists and media; the public consider the army as the infallible savior of Islam. Political parties are not in a position to use any issue directly against the army because they won’t be able to mobilize any support.
To sum up, the reason why we have witnessed mass hysteria in Aafia Siddiqui’s case is not because the people really have sentiments for Aafia Siddiqui but it’s because they had anti U.S sentiments.
Can any Pakistani TV channel today play the BBC interview of DR. Shazia Khalid?
Imagine if Shazia and Zarina were victims of the U.S instead of the Pak army, the reactions of Pakistanis would have been completely different and they very likely would have gone to the streets.
Zarina Mari and Baloch Missing Persons.
Article Source: Section 2 Analysis