Just under a week ago a British-Pakistani gunman identified as Muhammad Siddiqui entered a Colleyville, Texas synagogue, holding the rabbi and two congregants hostage until they managed to escape and the gunman was shot down. We now know that his demand was targeted around the release of an imprisoned Pakistani terrorist, one Aafia Siddiqui.
It has long been known in India at least, but seemingly not acknowledged internationally, that terrorism is deep-rooted within Pakistan and Siddiqui’s sole focus on Aafia Siddiqui makes abundantly clear what his motive was. The U.S. has danced with this particular devil on far too many occasions, and such a dance has previously involved Aafia who, contrary to Pakistan’s protestations, is no Joan of Arc.
In July 2008, U.S. forces in Afghanistan arrested Aafia Siddiqui—a Pakistani national who was a U.S.-educated neuroscientist and wife of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s nephew—on charges of terrorism. During her interrogation she allegedly grabbed an unattended rifle and was wounded in the process, this led to subsequent extradition to New York, where she was sentenced to eighty-six years in prison.
Rather than take her terroristic tendencies at obvious face value and condemn her to deserved imprisonment Pakistan instead took it upon themselves to deify her, citing her case as one emblematic of chronic injustice. Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and foreign minister all brought up her case with their American counterparts, and the Pakistani senate called on the United States to release her. The ‘Queen of Al-Qaeda’ as she became known did not trouble the front pages of many newspapers in the States, but her arrest did kick into gear widespread anti-American demonstrations, which even audaciously demanded that Pakistani authorities suspend the delivery of supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan. Pakistan was not content to lie by while a terrorist was incarcerated instead ensuring her case occupied headlines in media houses there for months.
While groups like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State are populated with citizens of other countries whose governments condemn them unequivocally, the bizarre deification of Aafia Siddiqui merited a quite different response from Pakistani officials who continued to fall over themselves to exalt in her victimhood, justify her behaviour and actions, and continue to advocate that she was a victim of western imperialism and injustice. While many in Pakistani streets continue to condemn her incarceration, it is certainly perturbing to know that such adulation has made its way to Blackburn in the North of England where her ideological ‘brother’ felt compelled to do something about it.
Words are not enough when it comes to Pakistan who has developed a Teflon like ability to shield itself from international condemnation, whether it is its embrace of Aafia or even in continuing to let those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks—terrorist attacks which killed international citizens—to roam free. Pakistan’s intelligence service knowingly provided Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden with safe-haven and protection. And, while the Biden administration pensively debates the consequences of the Taliban rampage through Afghanistan as if they were distributing baklava sweets, the reality is that the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan this summer was in true essence a Pakistani invasion.
The Colleyville hostage situation should also be a wake-up call the world and especially to the United States and the United Kingdom. Wishful thinking has swept through diplomatic channels when it comes to dealing with this militaristic nation and constantly turning away when it continues to whitewash terroristic activities around the world is increasingly measured in American and British lives. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Boris Johnson, all of them should follow the lead of Narendra Modi and India’s ruling BJP, to see with crystal clarity that Aafia and Muhammad Siddiqui are not anomalies but tried and tested products of Pakistan’s state policies.
The time has come to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Saurav Dutt is a TIME and Esquire featured Author and Political Analyst. He can be found at @sd_saurav on Twitter.