A gunman identified as Muhammad Siddiqui today entered a Colleyville, Texas synagogue and is holding the rabbi and an unknown number of congregants hostage. His demand is reportedly the release of imprisoned Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui.
As I write, the situation remains unresolved, but the focus on Aafia Siddiqui shows just how deep-rooted terrorism in Pakistan has become. In Dancing with the Devil, a history of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes, I briefly covered Aafia’s case: 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. She was wounded during her interrogation after she allegedly grabbed an unattended rifle, and was subsequently extradited to New York, where she was sentenced to eighty-six years in prison.
In Pakistan, Siddiqui became a cause célèbre. 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. While the news of Siddiqui’s arrest passed with little notice in the United States, her conviction led to widespread anti-American demonstrations, and to demands that Pakistani authorities suspend the delivery of supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan. Her incarceration occupied headlines in Pakistan for months.
With her brother’s attack on the Beth Israel synagogue, the prominence of her case will increase. While groups like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State are filled with citizens of other countries whose governments denounce them, Aafia Siddiqui is different: Pakistani officials at all levels of government endorse her and treat her like a hero. Inevitably, many on the Pakistani street will now celebrate her brother or, at the very least, excuse his actions.
Inevitably, the White House will condemn today’s actions. They should. But, statements are no longer enough. Pakistan’s embrace of Aafia is just the tip of the iceberg. The Pakistani government continues to let those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks—terrorist attacks which killed Americans—to roam free. Pakistan’s intelligence service knowingly provided Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden with safe-haven. And, while the Biden administration discusses the Taliban take over of Afghanistan as if it occurred in a vacuum, the reality is that the Taliban’s rampage through Afghanistan this summer was effectively a Pakistani invasion.
Hopefully, the Colleyville hostage situation will be resolved without the loss of life, at least on the part of the hostages. But, it should also be a wake-up call: To allow diplomatic wishful thinking about Pakistan’s orientation trump reality has a very high cost, one increasingly measured in American lives. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken: Aafia and Muhammad Siddiqui are not outliers but honored products of Pakistan’s state policies.
It is time to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and co-editor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).