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Daily Times: Search for Dr Aafia’s daughter yields startling results

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Search for Dr Aafia’s daughter yields startling results

* International NGOs stumble upon a dozen incarcerated non-Afghan girls * DNA tests fail to turn up missing Mariam
* Pak govt asks Afghan, US authorities to aid search
* Govt trying to ensure Aafia serves out sentence back home

By Saeed Minhas

ISLAMABAD: During efforts to trace Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s missing 11-year-old daughter Mariam, international organisations have stumbled upon nearly a dozen juvenile girls who have been languishing in several Afghan jails, sources privy to the search told Daily Times on Tuesday.

Not much is known about these girls, and most are referred to by the numbers allotted to them, just like Dr Aafia was. Sources said that during their visits to some of the jails, they requested the authorities to transfer these girls out of captivity to a safer place because the harsh environment in these prisons might “ruin their lives”.

Daily Times also learnt that DNA tests of three girls aged between 11 and 12 – who did not appear to be Afghans – were conducted in an attempt to find Mariam, but the tests came back negative.

However, sources said a number of international NGOs working on child trafficking and human rights, have been contacted by the Pakistani government to try and locate Mariam in other jails in Afghanistan. Islamabad has also contacted the Afghan government and the US CENTCOM to cooperate with the NGOs in this regard.

Mariam is the second child of Dr Aafia and was only three-and-a-half-years old when she, her five-year-old brother Ahmed, six-month-old baby brother Suleman and their mother were picked up from outside their Karachi home by US Marines and local police in 2003, according to Dr Aafia’s friends and family members.

Following the verdict of a US jury in the Dr Aafia’s case, Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to US, has personally apologised to the family for the unfortunate decision and has promised to recover the missing child, family sources said. They also revealed that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had also said that he would see to it that Dr Aafia spent her prison time in Pakistan.

But various legal experts and officials of the foreign and interior ministries have now confirmed that in the absence of a prisoner exchange treaty between the US and Pakistan, bringing Dr Aafia back would only be possible on ‘humanitarian grounds’, provided the US agreed to the request.

Diplomatic sources have also told Daily Times that her repatriation would only be possible if Dr Aafia agreed to maintain her silence and issue no statements regarding her arrest and subsequent treatment during captivity in Afghanistan and US. They held that since the issue had become very sensitive for both the US and Pakistan, certain UK lobbyists had stepped in to ask the US to repatriate Dr Aafia to serve out the rest of her prison term in Pakistan. These mediators have also assured that she will maintain her silence while in Pakistan and there would be no cause for embarrassment for any concerned party. Ironically, these sources also revealed that throughout the Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial, Pakistan never officially asked for her release or repatriation to Pakistan, and that even now, Pakistan has to officially seek her repatriation before the current US administration starts thinking about it.

Source: Daily Times

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