The correct response to Aafia’s sentence
February 6, 2010 § 15 Comments
While to an average man, it may seem rather more appealing to go out in the streets and wreck havoc on roads and buildings, a more rational approach would be the one cited by Babar Sattar in his recent article:
“Statistics regarding the US justice system establish two things. One, that despite the civil rights movement and momentous anti-segregation decisions such as Brown vs. Board of Education, the conviction rate for blacks has remained much higher in comparison to whites during the later half of the 20th century. And, two, despite the emphasis on due process and all safeguards implicit within the justice system, there have been innumerable instances of grave injustice meted out to individuals affected by social and cultural biases.
In view of such injustices, the Innocence Project was set up in the Cardozo School of Law in 1991, which uses DNA evidence to help prisoners exonerate themselves. So far, almost 250 innocent convicts have benefited from such evidence and won their release. For example, James Bain was released in December at the age of 54, after spending 35 years behind bars for the crime of abduction and rape of a child that he had not been involved with. Similarly, James Lee Woodard was released in 2008 after serving a prison term of 27 years for a murder that he did not commit. Would Aafia Siddiqui have been convicted on the exact-same evidence if, instead of being a veiled Muslim denouncing Zionist conspiracies in the New York courtroom, she had been a composed blond white women wearing a Versace outfit? The challenge for any legal system is to prevent invidious societal prejudices from influencing dispensation of justice. In the first instance, the New York district court seems to have failed in rising to this challenge.
Our president, prime minister and the Foreign Office have expressed deep concern over the ruling and have announced their intent to provide legal support to Aafia Siddiqui. This is the correct response. It must be supplemented with initiating an inquiry into who in Pakistan’s Interior Division or intelligence agencies ordered that Aafia be “picked up,” in breach of her fundamental constitutional rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest, and to be handed over to the Americans without the mandated due process under our laws.
Further, as we go around denouncing the US as evil incarnate, let us also remember that the same folks who arrested Aafia Siddiqui also detained Masood Janjua around the same time and our justice system is yet to find a clue to his whereabouts.Instead of following the Jamaat-e-Islami’s lead and mimicking the monkey who lit up his own tail in fury, it is preferable to focus on the available legal remedies within the US justice system. Notwithstanding the ideal that moralists would wish to see implemented, in our imperfect world, the extent to which an individual’s fundamental human rights stand respected still depends on the incidence of his/her birth, as well as national identity. And in that regard, protesting the West’s duplicity will not help. Reforming ourselves to build a nation whose rights no one dare impinge will be a more constructive approach.”
Even when I am very disappointed with the Pakistani government at the way it handled the case and the docility it displayed in pushing it, I am hopeful that the sentence and the consequence backlash, both from the right-wingers and human-rights’ activists, would make the government make better moves this time to ensure Aafia is accorded justice and is not sacrificed to a blind, injust sentence.
On a side-note, I am quite appalled at few leftist fellow bloggers whom I have come across. Their stance over the issue is quite beyond me. While they do claim to be human rights’ activists, they are of the opinion that Pakistani nation need not give a damn to her since she’s not a direct national concern. I must say this utilitarian approach is highly dangerous and we’d then be left to deciding who deserves basic human rights and who don’t, based upon how much that person is concerned to us.
Finally, I’d also want to see ANY arguments from such friends that may substantiate in anyway Aafia’s conviction since thus far, I’m quite unable to discern any solid proof or rational justification to her implication in the said case.