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Friday, November 7, 2008

Amina Masood Janjua: To Barack Hussein Obama

The News, Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dear Barak Obama and John McCain,

Whichever one of you wins this election, I wish you success and I hope from the depths of my heart that you will transform the image of America into what it should be. I pray that you are able to show the true face of America to the rest of the world — a face which reflects the values of your ordinary citizens, many of whom I met in a recent trip abroad and which was an eye-opener for me.

I was invited by Amnesty International to visit member states of the EU, the UK and the US on a speaking tour in August/September 2008, to meet politicians, parliamentarians and ordinary citizens, and to convey to them the agony and torment that hundreds of other family members, including myself, of ‘enforced disappeared persons’ are going through. I was amazed that many of the people I met had no idea about this burning issue; of the illegal abductions, the detention of these persons in so-called ’safe houses’, the torture they are subjected to and the fact that they are denied the right to a fair trial. I was touched by the sympathy and promises of moral and any other support that they could offer in order to relieve us of this ongoing pain.My ordeal began on July 30, 2005, when my beloved husband, Masood Janjua, was abducted on his way to Peshawar along with his friend Faisal Faraz. These abductions began in Musharraf’s dictatorship and were one of his contributions to the war on terror. For a year I went from pillar to post, but all in vain. During this period the only clue was a message from the presidency that Masood was alive and well and would be home soon. In September 2006 I launched a campaign of peaceful protests outside parliament in Islamabad, and was soon joined by a large number of victims like myself. In October 2006 I filed a large number of cases in the Supreme Court, and much to our relief and delight, the chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, took notice and demanded an explanation from the authorities as to their whereabouts. As a result of this judicial intervention around 140 detainees were released.

Unfortunately our joy was short-lived and on Nov 3, 2007, Musharraf imposed emergency rule in the country. This was an outright attack on the judiciary and over 40 judges of the superior courts, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, were forcibly removed from office. This came as a tremendous blow, especially for me, since in the last hearing before Nov 3 the court had ordered Dr Imran Muneer, who was a witness to the fact that Masood was being detained by the intelligence agencies, to record his statement in the next hearing on Nov 13. That was the last time the matter was brought up in any court, since the ‘new’ judiciary had no interest whatsoever in the issue.

When a new government was formed after the Feb 2008 elections, our hopes were raised. They apparently showed concern for our plight, and many positive statements and promises were made. But when it came to doing something concrete there was no response whatsoever. Whichever way we turn we are faced by a wall of silence and indifference.

My recent tour to Europe was a wonderful experience, mainly because of the warmth and support shown to me by the people. My tour was cut short at the last minute when I was about to board a plane in Geneva for Washington DC on Sept 13, 2008, and was informed by the US embassy in Islamabad that the visa they had issued to me on Aug 12, 2008, had been revoked. I was shocked, hurt and disappointed and wish to convey this to those responsible. What I fail to understand is that last year the same US embassy had invited me to visit Washington where they wanted to give me a ‘Courage Award’ for my efforts towards uniting families with their loved ones. I declined the invitation then since I was not interested in any awards. All I wanted was my husband! And yet now when I wanted to go and was a guest of Amnesty International, which had arranged my meeting with Congress members and politicians, I was being prevented. This was not only extremely upsetting for me and my children, it was also an insult to a reputable organisation such as Amnesty.

I want to appeal to every person who has a conscience. I am grieving for my missing husband but where is the missing conscience of the world? Why are the governments of the so-called civilised world silent? I will not rest till I find my beloved husband, and am willing to go to any corner of the globe if necessary. The present US government may have stopped my entry into their country but they cannot stop me from gaining access to the hearts of the American people.

I have a humble message for the new future US government to show more responsibility and maturity than its predecessor. As a superpower your responsibilities are also super and the world will be watching every step you take. We too have our hopes pinned on you and desperately urge you to take immediate steps to undo the horrifying damage done to world peace by the present US government. Practise as you preach and show the world that not all Americans who come to power leave their conscience behind. Let Bagram, Abu Gharaib and Guantanamo Bay be razed to the ground. Let no human being ever have to endure what Dr Afia Siddiqui and Saifullah Paracha are going through. Prevent the CIA and FBI from violating the fundamental rights of thousands of innocent victims the world over.

Let America vote for real justice, peace, rule of law and human rights — for a safer and brighter future. Let us forget the wrong done by the Bush administration and hope for humanitarian and positive policies. Here is a wonderful opportunity to facilitate the release of our long lost loved ones, to make room for love and not hate and to make room for mutual respect and not mistrust.

Hopeful and anxious,

Sincerely
Amina Masood Janjua
The writer is chairperson, Defence of Human Rights

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