After being freed in November after spending 15 months in jail, Asiya Andrabi, 48, surfaced on Srinagar streets, last week. The founder leader of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) led a veil-clad group of activists to the Press Enclave.
Carrying black placards, they torched the US flag amid fierce anti-American sloganeering. They were protesting against the continued detention of Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui by US during which she has allegedly contracted cancer and has alleged become pregnant because of sexual abuse.
Aasiya was arrested on August 28, 2010 from a residential house in the Habak-Zakoora locality in Srinagar for her alleged active role in 2010 unrest. She was detained in a Jammu jail where she was suffering from multiple ailments. Her transfer from Jammu to Srinagar jail became a legal battle that Mian Abdul Qayoom fought for a long time.
After she was shifted to Srinagar, she remained admitted in SKIMS hospital for some time. The J&K government finally set her free on Nov 7, 2011 on the eve of Eid. She took a long time to take care of her health and family that continues to remain scattered. Asiya is married to Ashiq Hussain Faktoo who is imprisoned since 1994, after being awarded life sentence. Officials said her release was conditional.
Asiya has remained in public life for a long time. But her return to the streets, this time, for something beyond the political borders she lives in, surprised many people. She took up the case of a Pakistani scientist who is at the core of Islamabad’s crisis and anti-Americanism, something that has divided Pakistan’s ruling elite from the masses they represent. “The clerics of Pakistan and Kashmir have failed in their basic duty in raising voice against the US for imprisoning Aafia Siddiqui,” Asiya said.
Affia Sidiqui, a diminutive 39-year-old mother of three disappeared from Karachi in March 2003 in murky circumstances. Five years later, she was traced in a US prison in Afghanistan. It was said later that she was kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agencies and handed over to US at the peak of their anti-terror comradeship. Later she was flown to US and tried for attacking US soldiers. The trial dubbed a sham exercise by many sentenced her to 86 years’ in jail.
She is eligible to move out in 2094 when she will be 122 years old. Back home in Pakistan she became a cause c?l?bre widely viewed as an innocent victim of American injustice. Of the three children – her son and daughter has been released but the little one is still untraceable. Both the freed children said they were being held in prisons in Afghanistan.
While Ms Sidiqui is a huge issue in Pakistan, can Asiya make her relevant to Kashmir that is desperately seeking American friendship across the ideological divide?