Public face of ‘missing persons’
But there is also a local dimension to the widespread protests. In recent years, human rights groups have accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of illegally detaining terror suspects. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 242 people remained missing in 2009. Siddiqui had become the public face of Pakistan’s “missing persons” after she vanished from Karachi with her three children.
“We are protesting the verdict, and we are protesting against our government,” says Ali Abbas Zaidi, the chair of the Pakistan Youth Alliance, an activist group that participated in a civil society protest against the verdict in Islamabad’s Blue Area. He argues that Siddiqui’s case must be seen in a “broader perspective.”
“How can we criticize the US when our own government has been complicit in illegally detaining innocents?” asks Zaidi. According to Defence of Human Rights, an independent organization advocating for the release of all missing persons, more than 100 Pakistani women remain in illegal detention.
Siddiqui’s conviction is expected to put pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari’s government, which is already perceived locally as an American proxy. “The government needs to handle this issue with circumspection,” says Dr. Hussain, who suggested that Pakistan appeal the verdict. The Pakistani embassy in Washington has already expressed “dismay” at Siddiqui’s conviction.
“It’ll be a balancing act for the government,” says blogger Saleem. “We have to respect judicial systems no matter what, even if they go against our expectations.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
First published (and complete articles ) on Christian Science Monitor