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Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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December 14, 2012

Cynthia McKinney held briefly on return from Pakistan

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

On December 12, former six-term Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was detained briefly at Atlanta airport while entering the United States on her return from a visit to Pakistan where she campaigned for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who is serving 86-year imprisonment for her alleged attempt to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

When she was asked by a women official who she visited in Pakistan, “I told her Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's family.” She asked me who else and I responded ambassadors, diplomats, academicians, because lots of Pakistanis studied in the U.S.

In a piece titled “The Soft Repression Continues,” published on December 13 by Op Ed News, McKinney provided a graphic account of her encounter with the officials:

“I asked them … why I was getting this individualized attention.  They responded that they were just following orders…. One respectfully said that Pakistan was a country of interest due to training camps.  I responded, "you mean the US training camps?"  He smiled knowingly.”

This was probably second time McKinney was questioned on her return from abroad. About such encounters with US officials she says: “Each time such searches give me an opportunity to spread the good news about the work that we must do for peace and for justice, I will do so while highlighting the contradictions.”

During her December 2 to 9 to Pakistan, McKinney was accompanied by International Action Center Co-Director Sara Flounders.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has been held in solitary confinement for years in U.S. prisons, after being abducted from Pakistan with her three young children, held in a series of secret prisons in Afghanistan, and tortured and abused. While one of Siddiqui’s three abducted children, Suleman, remains missing, the eldest of them was at the Karachi airport to greet Flounders and McKinney.

The greeting by hundreds, as well as the weeklong trip, was organized by Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, Aafia Siddiqui’s sister, and the Free Aafia Movement.

Later that day, McKinney, Flounders and Fowzia Siddiqui participated in a “Caravan of Dignity” through the streets of Karachi, with cars, hundreds of motorbikes sporting “Free Aafia” signs and Pakistani flags, and an open-bed truck blasting songs in honor of Dr. Aafia. Thousands of people on foot surrounded the caravan, which proceeded to a huge outdoor rally where all three spoke in support of Dr. Aafia’s return to Pakistan.

While in Karachi, McKinney and Flounders met with Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan who said that the policy of the incumbent government was to make Aafia's case a pending issue so the care taker government can then complete the task. However, he added, caretaker governments usually do not pick up new issues.

Addressing a Press Conference in the Islamabad Press Club, Cynthia McKinney said “I am here for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. When I first learned of her situation I decided to do all that I could do to reverse the injustice to this poor innocent woman. The United States has more to give Pakistan than drones, bombs and missiles. The United States can give Aafia back. The Pakistan Leadership just has to ask.”

She went on to say that “returning Dr. Aafia to Pakistan is the will of the people. People power can become very rebellious when it comes to dignity and honor of their daughters. I sensed the emotion within the masses.” 

Lashing out at War on Terror policy of the US, McKenney said that American policies regarding war are not good, in which innocent people including children, women and other fall prey to bombings. In the war, she further said, dangerous weapons including depleted uranium was being used. “I paid visits to Libya, Gaza and other countries to apologize from the people of those states against the US wrong policies regarding war and now came to Pakistan to seek apology in this regard.”

Sara Flounders an American political writer and member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party, as well as a principal leader of the International Action Center, while addressing the Press Conference said Dr. Aafia’s Case is a political case and she attended the trial and sentencing.

Flounders said: “Dr. Aafia was tortured, the 86 years (imprisonment) was shameful and we realize a political sentence and her rendition illegal. The solution is political and diplomatic. It does not lie in the courts even though they are needed to keep channels open. We believe the political solution is simple and glaringly obvious however, this requires concrete action from Pakistani government.” She further emphasized that by releasing Aafia the US and Pak leaders can reverse a step in recovering the damaged sovereignty.

Both the human rights activists said that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui could be returned to her native land Pakistan very easily through just an official letter but it depends on the Pakistani government. “Pakistan’s government is not serious to bring back Aafia from America by writing a letter,” they lamented. They appealed to the rulers of Pakistan to take the matter seriously and try their best for release of Aafia saying “she is the daughter of all Pakistanis.”

McKinney and Flounders also visited press conferences and rallies in Peshawar, Lahore and Hyderabad in support of the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

Pakistan American Democratic Forum, PADF, was the main initiator of American human right activists’ visit to Pakistan. In a message on this occasion, Dr. Agha Saeed, founder president of the PADF, said:

“Today, both Pakistan, the country of my origin, and the US, my adopted homeland, are in deep turmoil. Yet there is one major, substantial, significant and consequential difference between the two. To paraphrase Prof Ali Mazrui, one of the most profound thinkers of this age, while Pakistan is a "pre-democratic" country that is slowly transforming itself into fledging democracy, the US is fast becoming a "post-democratic" country, a country that is beginning to shed the foundational features of democracy, namely, habeas corpus, due process and equal justice.

“Today, while our most highly respected sister, Dr. Aafia, is the most prominent "prisoner of war", Dr. Sami Al-Arian is the most distinguished "political prisoner in the United States. The basic crisis of civil rights today is not airport profiling but the denial of due process and of equality before the law.”

Today, we are participant-observers to the emergence of a truly "consequential" coalition between Muslim Americans and a wide array of fellow Americans, such as Congressperson Cynthia McKinney and Ms Sara Flounders, Dr. Agha Saeed concluded.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the chief editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)