Gumnaam - Nameless Seekers of Justice

Gumnaam means "someone without a name" or more relevantly "a name lost." This blog is dedicated to those whose names may have been lost from our daily memories but their cause still stands tall and will do so as long as there are people struggling for that cause.

This blog is dedicated to those innocent and guilty who are imprisoned around the world in the name of a larger world agenda. They are those who are undergoing harrowing pain each day in the name of justice and the reason for their imprisonment is a larger cause that they defend. Whether innocent or guilty, this blog calls out for their just trial and just judgement.  

This is dedicated to the cause of justice! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Verdict

The following article appeared in The Nation newspaper on February 12, 2010 in the Opinions section and was written by M. A. Niazi.

The Dreyfus case ended up defining the 20th century, as well as Europe. The root was probably in the fact that Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a brilliant army officer, was a Jew, and thus an outsider. However, he was selected for the French general staff, but then he was accused of spying for Germany. He was court-martialled and found guilty. He was sentenced to imprisonment, which he served on Devil's Island, the French penal colony in French Guiana, as insalubrious a spot as was ever invented. Apart from the Dreyfus case, the inhuman conditions on Devil's Island were also highlighted. Dreyfus also underwent 11 years before being exonerated, because the spy had been another officer, and not just trials of himself, but of two others, the guilty officer and Zola, the writer who had adopted his cause.
Dr Afia's case has similarities, though she has not found a Zola yet to defend her. Dr Afia too is an outsider, and nothing more than this case brings home how much

To read the full article, click here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3 Legal Options For Dr. Afia

The following article appeared in Dawn Newspaper on 13 February 2010 and was written by Dr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi------

THE jury of the Manhattan court found Dr Afia Siddiqui guilty of charges of attempted murder and convicted her. Now on the next date of hearing, the judge after listening to the lawyers shall sentence her.

The conviction prevents the executive branch of the US government from intervening. Therefore no matter how much effort the Pakistani government puts in on a diplomatic level, the conviction cannot be reversed through political or diplomatic means. This is the system of the separation of powers under the US constitution.

So the question is what should be done to bring Dr Afia to Pakistan given that notwithstanding the merits of the case it has become an emotional issue for the people of Pakistan and political parties, putting further pressure on the government to ‘force’ America to return Dr Afia.

Under these circumstances there are three legal options available to the Pakistani government.

Firstly the government can provide or further strengthen the legal team so that they can file an appeal against the conviction and also the forthcoming sentence.

In the appeal the lawyers need to question the inadequacy of ...

Read more here

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In Response to Nadeem Paracha's From Maududi to Aafia


From Maududi to AafiaThe original article appeared in Dawn's blog on 11th February 2010 and was written by Nadeem Paracha. Like many others raising this issue, Paracha seems to be concerned as to the undue attention being given by Pakistanis to a guilty prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Not surprisingly his frustration towards this undue attention is aimed at Jamaat-e-Islami for some reason.

Paracha says that "On February 5, when Karachi became the horrid scene of two bomb attacks that killed dozens of men, women and children, leaders of various mainstream religious parties (especially the Jamaat-i-Islami) were marching up and down the roads and streets of Lahore condemning the American court’s verdict, insisting that Aafia was innocent, and demanding she be released and returned to Pakistan immediately. Not surprisingly, the Taliban followed suit." I would not even go into talking about how recently every religious party whether or not they agree with Taliban,irrespective of their policy statements towards Taliban, are grouped in the same category by journalists/opinion writers in Pakistan. The impact of this stereo-typing on the true understanding of the conditions in Pakistan will require another essay - what I am more concerned about is that the article fails to recognize is that, like every other political party or organization, Jamaat-e-Islami too had a response to February 5th and were not a silent spectator "enjoying" the scene as the article seems to portray.

What many commentators like Paracha do not seem to understand, or perhaps ignore, is that Dr. Aafia's case is not the case of one woman or one prisoner alone, defending it stands to not defend her guilt but the plight of prisoners in Guantanamo, Bagram and other jails where prisoners are kept under inhumane conditions, with no real crime necessarily under their belt but the "belief" that they are terrorists. We do not need enough evidence than the one that already exists in the cases of Abu-Ghuraib torture evidence, conditions in Guantanamo and in the stories of Moazzam Beg and Binyam Muhammad to know that the struggle throughout the world, not just in the Muslim world but on the streets from London to San Francisco is in defence of "justice" to those who suffer inhumane torture not allowed under any law in the world. What is not being understood is that defending such a case stands to show or inculcate in a nation is enough emotions or sympathy to feel for their fellow countrymen/women whether it is at the hands of the US, any other random country in the world or their very own governments.

The case of Dr. Aafia was first brought massively into media's eyes by the help of Yvonne Ridley, Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Jamaat-e-Islami and it only makes sense for them to continue their campaign when the case they have been speaking about is given a guilty verdict. I would assume that Paracha and others would agree that a campaign left undone or quietly forgotten and the shoddiness in that attitude is some thing we do not want to see in any of the parties in our country. When people point out that Prisoner 650 was actually not Dr. Aafia, they seem to ignore that that only means that there is another Prisoner 650 out there whose voice is still unheard, who still remains nameless. Defending a case such as that of Dr. Aafia's IS defending the many women, and not just men, who have been victims of the war on terror too.

If Paracha and all the writers he has mentioned, writers of blogs like Teeth Maestro and many more, seem bitter about the fact that Dr. Aafia's case is getting a forefront (Oh at last after 6 years but may be that's too early for them too) but not other victims - the argument sounds just as shallow when we think of a protest in London against war on terrorism and us saying oh but why dont they worry about their unemployment and the victims of suicide and hunger before worrying about others. Ofcourse in that case its the gora taking the rally out so we are so proud of their intellect and sympathy and passion for causes, but in our case every one who rants about a Dr. Aafia must clearly be a jihadist, a conservative, a religious fanatic or someone who is "ideologically bankrupt." And then we wonder why we havent "progressed" like the West - possibly because we can't think out-of-the-box when thinking about our own people and the causes and concerns that surround it.

In Response to Aafia, Myth, Mystery and Taliban

I wrote the following in response to: "Aafia: myth, mystery and Taliban" which was written by Mr. M. Ashfaq in Dawn Editorial on February 11th, 2010.


This letter is in response to the letter titled “Aafia: myth, mystery and Taliban” posted by Mr. Ashraf (Canada) which appeared on February 11, 2010. With the events building up since the tragic 9/11, the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the world in general is so complicated that we often find it hard to unleash ourselves from what we have been naturalized into believing and how we unknowingly misunderstand the laments around a story such as that of Dr. Aafia.

I quote the original letter:

Most Pakistanis consider her a courageous patriotic hero who has withstood years of torture in Bagram, Afghanistan and as such she is a victim of wrong persecution because little is known about her ambitions and activities after her arrival in Karachi and her confinement in prison which has not yet been proved correct.

Irrespective of the fact whether she is ‘Terror Mom’ or ‘Lady Al - Qaeda’, we have to think and decide if we want to support Taliban and Jihadi elements in our society and support irresponsible killing of innocent people.

It is undoubtedly true that during the time we are living in our sense of loyalty to humanity should be based on denying terrorism at the hands of not only the West but also factions within our society. However, what I would like to point out is that the issue around Dr. Aafia’s case is not so much about whether she was a terrorist or a Taliban or not but as to how a “terrorist” was treated and how justice was denied to a prisoner on all levels.

The letter also says:

If she was a prisoner (650), why did the FBI not charge her? And why was not she put on trial?

According to the FBI, she was arrested in July 2008 by the Afghan police outside a government compound in Ghazi with a handbag full of chemicals and information on chemical and biological weapons and some documents about potential targets in the USA. She was taken to the police station for interrogation when the alleged incident of firing on US personal happened. This also contradicts her confinement in Bagram Air Base as Prisoner 650.

If the FBI abducted her from Karachi airport and locked her up in a secret prison (Bagram Base) in Afghanistan for six years, there must be some allegations and charges against her for being involved in extremist activities and as such she should be a high - profile prisoner who could not be ignored for six years.

The letter dated Feb 11th believes that Dr. Aafia was imprisoned in 2008. However, a Newsweek article dated June 23, 2003 had already reported of her arrest. Further, the writer of the letter sounds confused when he asks why she was not charged if she was allegedly arrested in 2003 and if she was in fact arrested then, there must be good enough reason to kidnap her.

Dr. Ashraf makes a logical connection when he believes that when the FBI abducted her six years ago, there must be some allegations and charges against her. Unfortunately however, “allegations” and “charges” do not allow for a prisoner to remain in a jail for six years with the agencies involved completely denying that they ever imprisoned her at all. Furthermore, it does not allow for her children to be lost along with her or the sexual assault and psychological pressures a prisoner has to go through whether male or female.

There is a distinction between supporting the Taliban and between supporting a prisoner’s right to the Universal Human Rights declaration. In the UK yesterday a case was won in the courts whereby it was proven that the UK government and Mi5 were hiding reports of Binyam Muhammad’s torture in Guantanamo with collusion of his country’s government. If the UK can allow prisoners of war on terror a chance to speak-up albeit amongst challenges, we as Pakistanis should also be able to accept that a human needs to be treated a human irrespective of his or her status being that of a criminal or a prisoner.


I submitted the above letter in response to the original letter, in Dawn's editorial and await its submission. Let's see if it does get printed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yvonne's Response to Dr. Aafia's Guilty Verdict

A letter by Yvonne Ridley, dated February 6th 2010, after the latest developments in Dr. Aafia's case.


By Yvonne Ridley

Many of us are still in a state of shock over the guilty verdict returned on Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The response from the people of Pakistan was predictable and overwhelming and I salute their spontaneous actions.

From Peshawar to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and beyond they marched in their thousands demanding the return of Aafia.

Even some of the US media expressed discomfort over the verdict returned by the jurors … there was a general feeling that something was not right.

Everyone had something to say, everyone that is except the usually verbose US Ambassador Anne Patterson who has spent the last two years briefing against Dr Aafia and her supporters.

This is the same woman who claimed I was a fantasist when I gave a press conference with Tehreek e Insaf leader Imran Khan back in July 2008 revealing the plight of a female prisoner in Bagram called the Grey Lady.

She said I was talking nonsense and stated categorically that the prisoner I referred to as “650” did not exist.

By the end of the month she changed her story and said there had been a female prisoner but that she was most definitely not Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

By that time Aafia had been gunned down at virtually point blank range in an Afghan prison cell jammed full of more than a dozen US soldiers, FBI agents and Afghan police.

Her Excellency briefed the media that the prisoner had wrested an M4 gun from one soldier and fired off two rounds and had to be subdued. The fact these bullets failed to hit a single person in the cell and simply disappeared did not resonate with the diplomat.

In a letter dripping in untruths on August 16 2008 she decried the “erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Ms
Aafia Siddiqui”. She went on to say: “Unfortunately,
there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism…”

When Jamaat Islami invited me on a national tour of Pakistan to address people about the continued abuse of Dr Aafia and the truth about her incarceration in Bagram, the US Ambassador continued to issue rebuttals.

She assured us all that Dr Aafia was being treated humanely had been given consular access as set out in international law … hmm. Well I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial got underway, the US Ambassador and some of her stooges from the intelligence world laid on a lavish party at the US Embassy in Islamabad for some hand-picked journalists where I’ve no doubt in between the dancing, drinks and music they were carefully briefed about the so-called facts of the case.

Interesting that some of the potentially incriminating pictures taken at the private party managed to find the Ambassador was probably hoping to minimize the impact the trial would have on the streets of Pakistan proving that, for the years she has been holed up and barricaded behind concrete bunkers and barbed wire, she has learned nothing about this great country of Pakistan or its people.

One astute Pakistani columnist wrote about her: “The respected lady seems to have forgotten the words of her own country’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): “You
can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some
of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”.

And the people of Pakistan proved they are nobody’s fool and responded to the guilty verdict in New York in an appropriate way.

When injustice is the law it is the duty of everyone to rise up and challenge that injustice in any way possible.

The response – so far – has been restrained and measured but it is just the start. A sentence has yet to be delivered by Judge Richard Berman in May.

Of course there has been a great deal of finger pointing and blame towards the jury in New York who found Dr Aafia guilty of attempted murder.

Observers asked how they could ignore the science and the irrefutable facts … there was absolutely no evidence linking Dr Aafia to the gun, no bullets, no residue from firing it.

But I really don’t think we can blame the jurors for the verdict - you see the jury simply could not handle the truth. Had they taken the logical route and gone for the science and the hard, cold, clinical facts it would have meant two things. It would have meant around eight US soldiers took the oath and lied in court to save their own skins and careers or it would have meant that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was telling the truth.

And, as I said before, the jury couldn’t handle the truth. Because that would have meant that the defendant really had been kidnapped, abused, tortured and held in dark, secret prisons by the US before being shot and put on a rendition flight to New York. It would have meant that her three children – two of them US citizens – would also have been kidnapped, abused and tortured by the US.

They say ignorance is bliss and this jury so desperately wanted not to believe that the US could have had a hand in the kidnapping of a five-month -old baby boy, a five-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother.

They couldn’t handle the truth … it is as simple as that.

Well I, and many others across the world like me, can’t handle any more lies. America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.

The trust has gone, there is only a burning hatred and resentment towards a superpower which sends unmanned drones into villages to slaughter innocents.

It is fair to say that America’s goodwill and credibility is all but washed up with most honest, decent citizens of Pakistan.

And I think even Her Excellency Anne Patterson recognizes that fact which is why she is now keeping her mouth shut.

If she has any integrity and any self respect left she should stand before the Pakistan people and ask for their forgiveness for the drone murders, the extra judicial killings, the black operations, the kidnapping, torture and rendition of its citizens, the water-boarding, the bribery, the corruption and, not least of all, the injustice handed out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family.

She should then pick up the phone to the US President and tell him to release Aafia and return Pakistan’s most loved, respected and famous daughter and reunite her with the two children who are still missing.

Then she should re-read her letter of August 16, 2008 and write another … one of resignation.

* Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners which first brought the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui to the world’s attention shortly after her kidnap in March 2003. The award-winning, investigative journalist also co-produced the documentary In Search of Prisoner 650 with film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani which concluded that the Grey Lady of Bagram was Dr Aafia Siddiqui