KARACHI: A new recording of an alleged conversation with a high-ranking police officer suggests that Aafia Siddiqui was handed over to Pakistani intelligence agencies in 2003.
The recording has been released by the International Justice Network (IJN), which represents Siddiqui’s family. While campaigners for Siddiqui have consistently said that she was arrested and handed over to intelligence agencies that then transferred her into US custody, the charge has been denied by the previous government and US officials.
The conversation, which was reportedly recorded by a Pakistani-American man, is of a meeting with an individual who identifies himself as the head of counter-terrorism for Sindh, Imran Shaukat. The recording cannot be independently verified by The Express Tribune. According to police officials, Shaukat is currently in the US for a two-year training course. They were unable to provide any contact information for him in the US.
According to the transcript and recording released by the IJN and the voices identified by their source, Shaukat says Siddiqui – whose face he had not seen before – was caught as she was travelling to Islamabad. He says she was handed over to the Pakistani intelligence agencies. “That’s what they were saying that the machinery was purchased and Osama bin Laden … that she was one with him …” he is heard saying, and that Siddiqui was a “minor facilitator”. The source (who recorded the conversation) is heard asking, “Why couldn’t she help them snag him, miscellaneous interrogations notwithstanding?” Shaukat replies, “Well, they are not fools. They wouldn’t inform her of their forwarding address.”
When the source asks Shaukat about Maryam, Siddiqui’s daughter, being recovered “yesterday”, he replies that this news is “two or three-months old”. Shaukat also says that Siddiqui’s daughters “were picked up from somewhere” and “we took them with us. They were American nationals. They were all born there.”
Former interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat told The Express Tribune that he stands by his earlier statements that the government, police and intelligence agencies had no role in the alleged abduction of Aafia Siddiqui.
On the tape, Shaukat is heard describing the modus operandi of the intelligence agencies. “They come, they pick up a person (and keep him) for two to three months … someone files a civil rights petition and we say that we don’t have this person. The intelligence agencies then bring a person to us and say now do an entry and keep him. We say, ‘We’ve already told the court that we don’t have this person, now the court will catch us’”.
Siddiqui, on the other hand, is believed to have told the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that “she was aware that various law enforcement agencies had been looking for her, and that she therefore was in ‘hiding’ for the last five years.”
IJN’s Project Director Tina Foster told The Express Tribune that the recording, which the IJN is reassured is real, “certainly warrants a new investigation.” When asked why the recording – which was received by IJN in April 2010 – was not brought up earlier, Foster said the case Siddiqui was convicted of was very specific (i.e. the incident in Ghazni) and the IJN needed time to verify the content. They felt that now – in light of the Raymond Davis case – the government should take a stand on Siddiqui’s case.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.