Wearing pink badges marked with No. 650, signifying the prisoner number of an unidentified woman in Bagram Jail, the relatives of missing persons on October 29/ 2008 gathered in front of Geo TV building in Islamabad for yet another peaceful effort to press for the release of their dear ones.
This time joined by a large number of civil society representatives, members of Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the speakers at the protest urged the government to halt all cooperation with the US till the release of all missing persons held in Pakistan and in other countries.
The protesters held placards demanding release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and other missing persons and condemned former president Musharraf for selling Pakistani citizens to other countries. Representatives of Pakistan Professional Forum and common citizens were also part of the protest.
Describing her struggle to reach Prisoner No. 650, the British journalist, Ms Ridley said that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and those who fled the notorious Bagram Jail confirmed the presence of a woman in Bagram who was brutally tortured and repeatedly raped. “The cries of a helpless woman used to echo in the jail that prompted prisoners to go on a hunger strike,” she said.
Marium, Ms Ridley’s Muslim name, said that “There are many Muslim women in the captivity of American forces and are in the same or even worse condition than that of Dr. Aafia,” she said adding that if public remained silent, they would lose their sisters forever. “I beg you to join in my struggle of finding prisoner 650.” She expressed disappointment over the insensitive attitude of the public towards the miserable condition of missing persons. She said that Taliban who were labelled barbaric and uncivilised gave her complete privacy in the prison. “No one used to enter my room without my permission,” she said.
Leading figure in the movement of missing persons, Amina Masood said that it was not difficult to imagine her misery, as she knew that her husband was alive but she was not allowed to even listen to his voice for the past three years. “If our relatives were sold to the American government then the present government should buy them back,” she said begging the leadership to end their ordeal.
She said that the government had promised to constitute a committee to look into the matter yet nothing practical had been done so far. “We do not want any committee, all we want is our dear ones,” she said adding that despite commitments made by the leaders in the government and opposition, the number of missing persons was continuously increasing.
Only a day before, Amina said that a mother of three daughters, Najma Bibi, was taken away by the agencies to an unknown place. She said that Pakistani government should make it clear to the American government that they could not be friends until all missing persons were released.
“The system of missing persons is causing great pain to the citizens of the country and is creating environment of distrust hence it should be completely eliminated,” she said with tears rolling down her eyes.