Pakistan's prime minister said today that top officials currently visiting Washington would raise the issue of a female Pakistani scientist found guilty of trying to kill US servicemen. A US jury last month found Aafia Siddiqui, 37, a mother and neuroscientist trained at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, guilty on all charges and she could face life in prison when sentenced on May 6.
"I myself raised the issues about Doctor Aafia Siddiqui ... with various Congress delegations visiting Pakistan," the prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters in Islamabad. "It is not possible that our delegation will not raise these issues during the talks," he said in remarks broadcast on local television. Siddiqui was accused of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station where she was being interrogated in July 2008 and trying to shoot US servicemen.
Although she was not charged with terrorism, prosecutors described her as a would-be terrorist who had plotted to bomb New York. The case provoked outrage in Pakistan, with protests erupting throughout the country after the verdict and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari ordering his government to provide her with legal assistance in the US. Mr Gilani said, however, that Pakistan's top priority in this week's talks chaired by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be Pakistan's crippling energy crisis.
The prime minister had yesterday hailed "major paradigm shift" in US policy towards his country ? notably on Pakistan's efforts to tackle Islamist extremists on its soil ? and repeated his desire for co-operation. "We want regional stability, we want good relations with India and other neighbours ? the US also wants regional stability," he said. Talks in Washington, billed as a first-of-a-kind "strategic dialogue" will continue for a second day today, after the two sides pledged to build a new spirit of trust after years of mutual recriminations.