If Aafia Siddiqui is suffering from various mental illnesses, or nearing the end of life, and it can assured she would not be a threat to society, she stands a chance to be released on humanitarian grounds Bio: The author is a columnist and former contributor for Al-Jazeera America. She has a Masters degree in Political Science. She can be reached at Meriam.Sabih@gmail.com or twitter @meriamsabih The Afghan Peace Talks have finally concluded with both the United States and the Taliban willing to sign an agreement on February 29th even as skepticism remains. Part of the anticipated deal includes the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners. According to Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, due diligence is necessary regarding which prisoners are released. He also posed the question that, “…while US-Pakistan relations have improved since Pakistan has helped facilitate the talks, will Pakistan continue to be seen as a strategic partner outside of the Afghanistan narrative?” In November, I moderated an event with Kugelman along with lawyer and author of Aafia Unheard, Dawood Ghazanavi, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., titled, “Steps to Creating Peace; Pakistan’s Relations with the United States.” There Kugelman stated that an Afghan political analyst, Wahid Mozhdah, who had close ties with the Taliban and had been mysteriously murdered on Nov. 20, reported in an interview before his death that the list of prisoners the Taliban wanted released included Pakistan’s Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Kugelman was hesitant she would be released as part of an Afghan Peace deal but also stated that if any President were to take such a step, it would be President Trump. Although not an Afghan, nor seemingly a member of the Taliban, could Siddiqui be released as part of the Afghan peace deal as the late Mozdhah reported? It is unlikely as the United States doesn’t seem eager to hand over Aafia without getting something, or someone, like Shakil Afridhi, in return. Amongst many in Pakistan’s religious circles Siddiqui has taken on a cult like following. Siddiqui is also named in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s election manifesto as one of the many prisoners detained abroad that the current administration promises to make efforts to bring back home. Prime Minister Imran Khan during his trip to the United States mentioned Siddiqui in an interview to Fox News, saying the US also had one of its prisoners, referring to Sidiqui as a “frail woman.” Can Aafia Siddiqui be repatriated to Pakistan? A letter on behalf of the lawyers previously representing Siddiqui and her family including former career navy officer and Defense Attorney Charles Swift and Solicitor Dawood Ghazanavi has been sent to the Prime Minister of Pakistan in order to urge the government to renew its efforts to seek the release of Siddiqui. The letter outlines specific steps the government can take to seek her release from the United States based not on political but humanitarian grounds. Both Swift and Ghazanavi believe a compassionate plea is one of the best options to get Siddiqui repatriated back to Pakistan without the governments of both countries having to enter into an uncomfortable prisoner exchange involving either the Taliban or Shakil Afridi. This would change the narrative of Siddiqui to one based on humanitarian issues and steer it away from one in which terror groups and the political right have repeatedly sought her as their own. For this the Pakistani government would need to acquire Siddiqui’s medical records after which they would make a formal appeal to the Bureau of Prisons. They would thereafter upon her return provide her “with suitable medical care sufficient to ensure she does not become a danger to herself or others” in the future. Attorney Swift was recently invited to Pakistan by Ghazanavi. During his visit, the two met with the former Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansur. During that visit Swift noted in an interview that if there is a case that he thinks of at night it’s not the cases he’s won but cases like Siddiqui’s which he has lost. They both aim to deal with the long standing issue purely as a legal issue away from both politics and religion. Charles is most known for fighting Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan’s habeas’ petition which became a landmark case that went to the Supreme Court of the United States ruling military tribunals unconstitutional. He has been honored by the ACLU for his work and noted by the National Law Journal in 2005-2006 as one of the top lawyers in the United States. “If Siddiqui suffered from mental illness, as this book claims, where on earth would an insane woman be held on trial?” Swift admitted she was not fit for the trial and that she decided to testify despite the insistence of her council At one of their talks at the Sialkot bar an impassioned lawyer challenged Swift holding up the book, Aafia Unheard, which explains in detail her court trial and issues regarding her mental health. “If Siddiqui suffered from mental illness, as this book claims, where on earth would an insane woman be held on trial?” Swift admitted she was not fit for the trial and that she decided to testify despite the insistence of her council. Swift explained to the Sialkot Bar Association, that pleading insanity would have meant that the Defendant also plead guilty to the crime. Swift explained he believes she was not guilty of firing a gun at the American soldiers in Afghanistan. He along with her other lawyers were focusing on the lack of forensic evidence which was in their favor. Hence it didn’t matter for what reason she did not commit the crime she was accused of. Also pleading insanity would not change the location of her imprisonment, which would still have been the Carswell Medical Facility, a facility that has been notorious in the past for abuses. Can the same possible mental issues she faced become the reason for her release? The situation looks different when you delve further even though much remains shrouded in mystery. The compassionate plea is dependent on a thorough medical assessment of Siddiqui. If Siddiqui is suffering from various mental illnesses, or nearing the end of life, and it can assured she would not be a threat to society, she stands a chance to be released on humanitarian grounds. This could be a way for the PTI government to seek her release through a legal avenue for the first time again since 2010. The two world leaders may also not need to negotiate directly. But the letter also states that the request would be raised with the appropriate United States national security officials in the Departments of State, Department of Justice, and Department of Defense before it would be put forth to the Bureau of Prisons. At the same time recent events show Trump may have considerable influence with the Departments of Justice and Defense. Only one prisoner has been released from Guantanamo by President Trump even as holding prisoners at Guantanamo comes at a cost of $13 million per inmate. On the other hand Trump has pardoned several controversial military officers accused of war crimes. Could Aafia be released on humanitarian grounds and be granted leniency by the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons? We have yet to see but first what will Prime Minister’s Imran Khan’s response be? How will Pakistan tackle this issue or perhaps another group will again threaten either state for Siddiqui’s release? The author is a freelance journalist and former contributor for Al Jazeera America. She has a Masters degree in Political Science.