Geo TV’s Aafia Mafia – by Fasi Zaka

Terrorist princess Aafia Siddiqui is a shame for modest Pakistani women

TV journalism’s Aafia mafia

Dr Aafia has been hijacked, and not just by the Americans, who had her flown to the US and gave her a dubiously excessive punishment for attempted murder, but by the Pakistani media itself.
Just recently Meher Bokhari conducted a TV programme on Samaaon Dr Aafia Siddiqui, and it was an atrocious attack on the idea of responsible, or even mildly responsible journalism. She opened her piece on the programme with an emotional plea about the “daughter of the nation” and how “time” would ask Musharraf about his actions. Is this journalism or jingoism?

If she had attached sideburns and worn flare pants she would be a shoo-in for deceased actor Mohammad Ali with a shout of “judge sahib!” inevitably coming our way. Guests on her programme were Dr Aafia’s sister, Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, Senator Talha of the JUI andsenior ‘analyst’ Zaid Hamid.

Zaid Hamid immediately went off on an amazing tale of why theAmericans were after Dr Aafia. He explained that she was a neurologist who had biological weapons’ knowledge that the Americans were afraid of, and that her Indian MIT students were complicit in the frame-up and even went to question her in jail in Afghanistan. I like fiction, but this is too much. Dr Aafia’s two children are in the custody of her family, with one missing, but in the programme the killing of two children was being stated as fact.

To this hogwash Meher Bokhari said nothing, and it looked like she was ready to let things slide until Dr Aafia’s sister said that her sister has a PhD in education, specifically on learning by imitation. Senator Talha then, despite having just heard this, and having been on jaunts to the US on government money to see Dr Aafia in person, said Dr Aafia’s PhD was on lining up “discarded” children.

Again, Meher Bokhari had no interest in correcting anything or playing a responsible role. On a CNBC programme I was on, I mentioned this to Senator Talha when he repeated the same tripe (this was after the Samaa programme), after which a shouting match began where the guests were only interested in haranguing Marvi Memon, who was also present.

In all this, the only voice of sanity was Dr Fauzia. But no one was interested in her because it spoilt everyone else’s agenda. Meher Bokhari kept asking the rhetorical question, “What did Aafia do that cannot be forgiven?” clearly ignoring the issues prior to 2003 when Dr Aafia was on the radar for association with al Qaeda. The UN report never came up.

Zaid wants to use Dr Aafia for cutting off ties with the Americans, Senator Talha for cheap political mileage and Meher Bokhari for playing to the gallery. Dr Fauzia also presented a hypothetically logical reason for why the Americans have done what they have to Dr Aafia. But again, that was of no interest to Meher Bokhari and Co. Why bring logic into the equation? Frankly this particular programme of Meher Bokhari made Fox look good in comparison.

And now, the MQM – for ages not a word about the Aafia case until the Imran Farooq murder. Two pieces of information inconclusively suggested the murder may have been an intra-party affair, the first being a report in The Guardian and the second a vague statement by Scotland Yard. This was followed by a flurry of activity by the MQM for Dr Aafia.

Quite possibly the motive, entirely circumstantial at this stage, is to put the party on an anti-western front, especially with regard to their system of justice. And should things turn ugly in London, the championing of Dr Aafia’s ‘cause’ will serve as the pretext for pursuit of a criminal case – in a western court of law – against the party. After holding a rally for Dr Aafia, Dr Fauzia wryly remarked that it would have been better had it been held years earlier.

To get Dr Aafia back and to help commute her sentence will only be done by a more rational approach. That, however is unlikely to happen given the ways of the Aafia mafia.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2010.

The writer is a columnist, and TV and radio anchor