ISLAMABAD - The federal government Thursday informed the Senate that Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui who was convicted by an American court over the charge of shooting at US soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan has finally signed a clemency petition.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan informed the house during the question-hour session that Dr Aafia earlier was reluctant over filing a mercy petition, but now she has signed it.

He said that the petition, according to Foreign Office, was being sent to the US President through jail authorities.

“Now the Pakistani government had got an opening and it can stress the US government to hand over Dr Aafia to Pakistan,” he said. He said that the imprisoned doctor has access to e-mail, through which she remains in touch with her family and counsel.

Responding on behalf of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, he said that Dr Aafia had spoken to Pakistan embassy in United States on the telephone several times. 

Responding to the question of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, the adviser also said that legal action could be taken against those who handed over Aafia and other Pakistanis including Aimal Kansi to the US.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad had sought to know whether it was a fact that ban had been imposed on meetings with Dr Aafia while imprisoned in US jail during the Covid-19 pandemic and that the number of Covid-19 patients were also increasing in the said jail. 

The written reply said during Covid-19 pandemic, the consular visits had been suspended by the prison authorities in Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Carswell. “Resultantly, person meetings of our Consul General with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui had been put on hold. However, Consul General remained in touch with the prison authorities in order to get updates on the health and well-being of Dr. Aafia”. 

It said that due to efforts of Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington DC, a special consular visit was arranged for the Consul General in Houston to meet Dr. Aafia on September 24. 

During the meeting Dr. Aafia herself informed Consul General that her Covid-19 test came negative. She also informed the Consul General that she had recently been examined by her psychiatrist who declared her well. 

Separately, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Syed Shibli Faraz speaking on the floor of the house advised the opposition not to “play in the hands of enemies” by making China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project controversial. 

He gave these remarks after former chairman Senate and PPP lawmaker Mian Raza Rabbani on a calling attention notice had questioned the legal status of CPEC Authority Ordinance saying it had lapsed in June. 

Shibli conceded that the ordinance had expired but said it will shortly be brought before two houses of the Parliament in the form of a bill. 

  The minister said the opposition always made efforts to destroy institutions adding that they were also trying to sabotage the CPEC project. 

  He said CPEC was not a project of any political party rather it was project between Pakistan and China, two governments and people of both the countries. 

  “All the projects of CPEC were successfully advancing towards completion,” he also said. 

  When the minister used the opportunity of taking part in discussion on recent attack on a religious seminary in Peshawar to target the opposition, Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla interrupted him reminding him that it was a discussion on blast. 

  On this, the minister while referring to the recent anti-government movement of opposite said, “If you continue to weaken the state, God forbid more such incidents would take place”. He accused the opposition of putting the national interest and security at stake for their personal interests. 

  He said the enemies were taking advantage of the environment created by the opposition and pointed out that slogan of independent Balochistan had been raised in Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s—an 11-party opposition alliance—Quetta rally. 

  The information minister also criticized PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif for speaking against the state and its institutions while sitting abroad. 

  Taking part in the discussion, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq asked the government to fight against poverty and price-hike instead of attacking the opposition. 

  He regretted that the attack took place despite a threat alert was earlier issued in this regard. 

  JUI (F) Senator Moulana Attaur Rahman while rejecting the allegation that the opposition was supporting India recalled that a visit of Chinese President to Pakistan had to be postponed due to PTI’s sit-in in the capital. 

  He termed the Peshawar blast as an attempt to frighten the PDM leadership. He also asked the army to stay away from politics  

  Earlier, the house witnessed an uproar when the deputy chairman Senate who was presiding over the session did not allow the information minister to give a statement on the opposition’s “narrative.” The chair ruled that the minister would be allowed after taking up the agenda.