Shakil Afridi was described as unreliable, corrupt in 2002 report

Published: May 29, 2012

Afridi had conducted a fake polio vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in order to locate Osama bin Laden. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Shakil Afridi, who helped CIA find Osama bin Laden and was sentenced by a tribal court to 33 years in prison, faced accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing long before he was captured and jailed for treason.

In interviews over the weekend, several current and former Pakistani officials described the doctor Afridi, as a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing. They said his main obsession was making easy money.

According to a 2002 health department document seen by Reuters, Afridi was deemed to be corrupt and unreliable and unfit for government service.

US officials have hailed Afridi, in his 40s, as a hero for helping pinpoint bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad, where the al Qaeda leader was eventually killed in May last year in a raid by US Navy SEALs.

Officially, Pakistan has said nothing about Afridi except for the tribal court’s decision to sentence him should be respected. But fresh accusations about Afridi’s character, coupled with his imprisonment, could lead to further strain on already tense bilateral ties.

Pakistani officials’ attempts to cast doubt on Afridi’s character will likely be viewed in some quarters as retaliation for his work with the Americans, despite the disclosures being made in a document which dates back to 2002.

US officials on Monday called the accusations a character assassination. In Washington, one senior official said the US government was unaware of any questionable behaviour by Afridi.

“Available information showed Afridi was a respected member of the Pakistani health care community,” said the senior official. “We are aware of efforts, put in place since Dr Afridi’s arrest, to denigrate his character.”

Another US official said: “It’s nothing short of puzzling that Pakistani officials would disparage someone who helped in the hunt for bin Laden, a terrorist who had Pakistani blood on his hands.”

Afridi family’s lawyer declined to be drawn into the controversy. “I cannot comment on any past allegations against him,” Raza Safi told Reuters.

Afridi ran a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad and used cheek swabs to try to gather DNA from bin Laden’s children, said one former Pakistani security official familiar with the case.

Accompanied by three health workers, he went to bin Laden’s house and told his wives that a vaccination program was underway in the area, said the former security official.

“A woman went in (to the house) and said ‘bring the children out, the doctor is waiting and he will give them the drops’,” the former official said. “That’s when he used the swabs.”

It was unclear whether the CIA used the swabs to determine if the children were bin Laden’s. A DNA test can prove close blood relations and US authorities could have matched the samples with profiles it had collected from several of bin Laden’s relatives.

Inadvertently confirmed

In Washington, another senior US official with knowledge of Afridi’s work for the CIA said that the doctor’s vaccination efforts had also enabled him to gather intelligence on bin Laden’s couriers who visited the house.

“Dr Afridi was inadvertently able to confirm something we already suspected – that bin Laden’s couriers practiced extraordinary operational security,” the official said.

“Was that a key to the raid? No. Was it important? Absolutely.”

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday that Afridi “was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al Qaeda. And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that”.

“Because what they have done here, I think, you know, does not help in the effort to try to re-establish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced legislation in February calling for Afridi to be granted US citizenship and said it was “shameful and unforgivable that our supposed allies” charged him.

Unwanted Scrutiny

Infuriated by the unilateral US raid in a town just a 100 kilometres from the capital Islamabad, many in the country see Afridi as a person who conspired against the state and brought unwanted scrutiny of Pakistan’s attitude to militants.

Last week, a tribal court sentenced him to 33 years in prison for working with a foreign intelligence agency.

Afridi is being kept in solitary confinement in a prison in the city of Peshawar for fear that he may be targeted by militants also incarcerated there, said prison sources.

Afridi had been working with the CIA for years before the bin Laden raid, providing intelligence on militant groups in Pakistan’s unruly tribal region, said the former Pakistani security official and a former Pakistani intelligence official.

They and other officials said he was of questionable character. “Afridi was known to perform surgeries even though his qualification was basic and he was not authorised to conduct surgery,” a senior provincial health official said.

“He was accused of conducting surgeries of the eyes, nose, ears, kidneys.”

Afridi was also in contact with militant groups and treated Taliban fighters who were wounded in battle with the Pakistani military, said the former security official.

The Taliban are described by the state as terrorists, and most Pakistanis strongly oppose their suicide bombing missions, and philosophy.

“Keeping in view his extreme lust for money, I am ashamed to even call him a doctor. He is a corrupt, unreliable and low category officer,” said a March 2002 provincial health department report on Afridi’s performance and conduct.

The document described Afridi as unreliable, cruel and inhumane and gave him the lowest job performance scores in most categories. It went on to say:

“If his overall character as a doctor is taken into account I would recommend and feel that he is not at all fit for government service or any position where money is involved.”

Characterless

Tariq Hayat, formerly the highest government official in the Khyber tribal region, said he knew Afridi when the doctor worked at a hospital there and was a senior medical officer.

Hayat said he met him twice to question him over allegations that he had sexually assaulted a nurse at his hospital and had stolen its electrocardiograph machines for his private practice.

“I made him stand … I told him you are a characterless person, you have no principles,” said Hayat, adding he had Afridi fired and expelled him from Khyber. “I said ‘you are a thief, doctor’.”

A senior health official who said he saw a record of the case said a nurse had complained about sexual harassment to the regional health director. That account was confirmed by a senior police official who investigated Afridi.

“A number of nurses had complained about him, that he had behaved inappropriately with them,” said the police official, adding that Afridi was also accused of stealing material sent by international aid agencies and selling it.

These accounts could not be independently verified.

Afridi’s brother Jamil described the treason charges as baseless and said the doctor was being made a scapegoat.

“If my brother had done something wrong, he had a valid US visa. He could have fled the country,” he said, adding that the family had received no offers of help from the US government.

He did not respond to questions about the charges of corruption and harassment.

“I am in hiding because my life is in danger, all of our lives are in danger,” Jamil Afridi said.

However, some health workers who knew Afridi describe him as a dedicated, polite professional.

“He was very nice to all the people in the team and did his job very diligently,” said Naseem Bibi, a nurse.

She said she had been with him when the medical team visited bin Laden’s house. “Yes, he was very interested in this house on that day, but I wasn’t sure why,” she said.

Easy prey

His reputation hurt by allegations, Afridi was easy prey for the CIA which found him through his connections to Western aid agencies in about 2009, said the former security official.

“The man was living beyond his means after he was fired,” said the former security official. “He got married a third time. He maintained a couple of cars.”

Afridi, who came to Abbottabad to carry out the vaccination campaign apparently at the CIA’s behest, blundered when he visited the district health officer in the town.

He told the officer he was a volunteer who wanted to provide vaccinations in a certain area and he gave the officer his real name, the former security official said.

The team moved from house to house conducting vaccinations and leaving chalk marks on the door to show the people inside had been vaccinated, as is customary in Pakistan.

“They went in systematically the way a team is supposed to work,” said the official. “No eyebrows were raised.”

But after bin Laden was killed, his widows unwittingly helped Pakistani authorities track Afridi.

“They said that the only time when somebody from outside visited the house, was this polio vaccination (team),” said the former security official, who believed the only other visitor to the house was bin Laden’s courier, about once a month.

Afridi was quickly scooped up by security officials.

When interrogated, Afridi initially said he had no ties with Americans, said the former security official.

“He categorically denied everything to start with,” said the former security official. “But when the Americans started asking for him, then I think the cat was out of the bag.”

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Mirza
    May 29, 2012 - 8:31AM

    When Afridi was so corrupt even a decade ago, why was he not tried and jailed even in Gen Mush’s days? What does a 2002 report have to do in 2012 and OBL fiasco? Why is it a crime to take cotton swabs off OBL’s kids for DNA samples? The Doc should be tried for his role as a doctor and not a traitor. Pakistani govt would have to prove that he had full knowledge of OBL’s presence in Abbottabad.

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  • RRS
    May 29, 2012 - 8:32AM

    Can they make the 2002 Health department public or is it just a hog wash from the government.

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  • PTI till death
    May 29, 2012 - 8:38AM

    Any good news??

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  • Prakash
    May 29, 2012 - 8:53AM

    Maybe these accusations are true. Maybe these are not. Maybe the accusations against Zardari in Swiss courts are true. Maybe they are not.
    Point of this article?

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  • Truelies........
    May 29, 2012 - 9:01AM

    While in history among the Tribal belt Afridis are very famous for…..can do anything to earn money, highly unreliable and untrustworthy. Hence why Shakil “Afridi” was chosen among 180 million people. He deserves punishment even more.

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  • Imran Con
    May 29, 2012 - 9:11AM

    The funniest (or saddest) part is that even with all the dirt slinging starting up, true or not, nothing of it is relevant to the things he was actually charged with. It’s a bit too obvious what people are doing. They’re trying to turn him into a monster using the media. Trying to make him look like he’s a common criminal that everyone is better off with off the streets. It’s all backwards. The things being said now are usually the things they’d dig up before a trial to use against him. Instead, he was put in jail without a real hearing and people are trying to make a case for justifying it afterwards.
    It can be nothing other than a distraction, though, as it’s almost the definition. Trying to spotlight one thing when the real issue is being pushed aside.

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  • Pankaj
    May 29, 2012 - 9:42AM

    Congratulations for sentencing a “Traitor”. …not even a single “Patriot” has been held responsible for failing to detect US operation , no “Patriot” one has been even identified or suspected as responsible for allowing osama and his family to stay no one is held responsible or suspected for GHQ , meharan and karachi attacks.
    BUT a guy who helped find world’s most notorious guy is Found guilty. And a system very slow and inefficient in finding terrorist as guilty has done splendid job of sentencing this “Traitor”.
    This is the real face of a Nation which is formed on principles of Islam. Now I don’t have any doubt why pakistan is most hated nation of the world. God bless this country where every one is traitor in eyes of everyone else.

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  • Anas
    May 29, 2012 - 9:42AM

    The traitor should be jailed for life with no possiblity for parole. Even the USA, the master of double standards, jailed Jonathan Pollard who was spying is USA for its biggest ally Israel.

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  • May 29, 2012 - 9:43AM

    One day I was ready an interview of a veteran Israelite spy who worked in the gulf countries and was assigned to recruit local agents. He revealed that the spy agencies usually look out for people to hire who have psychological weaknesses like; too tender to women (sexually) and alcohol and motivated by easy money.
    Shakeel Afridi is a traitor and should be punished, but letting the big fish get away and making him a scapegoat is of course not appropriate.

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  • sidjeen
    May 29, 2012 - 10:08AM

    he was deemed unfit for government service in 2002 if i am not mistaking that’s like 10 years ago what exactly was he doing in government service in 2011. these character assassination tactics are very old and used against everyone who does not fit the agency’s definition of patriotism. like we cant see that.

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  • Polpot
    May 29, 2012 - 10:14AM

    this whole episode is almost as remarkable as the “very very successful” chicago visit.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Keep it up FO.

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  • John B
    May 29, 2012 - 10:14AM

    In what year this 2002 report was written?

    It is fair to assume that PAK machinery was tailing him and they did not suspect his involvement with CIA until after the US was asking about him.

    Until PAK comes clean with Abbottabad no one will believe PAK. PAK does not have lot of credibility.

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  • amir
    May 29, 2012 - 10:23AM

    as a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing. They said his main obsession was making easy money.’

    Well, doesn’t that description covers 90% of our present/past politicians and bureaucracy?

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  • jamshed
    May 29, 2012 - 10:26AM

    @Truelies……..:
    It is not true, whatsoever you said about Afridis. The most trusted Tribal and always fought against the Britishers. Who told you this???
    secondly, why he should be punished, he should must be declared hero because 600000 army of Pakistan did not capture Osama, but he did it. proud to Shakil

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  • karma
    May 29, 2012 - 10:40AM

    In a US court, Indian born business executive Rajat Gupta tried to argue his case by pointing out all the charitable good work he had done. The US judge quipped saying, ‘Teresa argument’ won’t work, as even if Mother Teresa was accused of a particular crime, all the other work she has done would be irrelevant to the case.

    The same applies here. The doctor is not being tried for all his past track record. The question was if he did anything wrong in helping nab a international terrorist, whom even his own country had declared a terrorist and was hunting for, in an alliance with USA. Did he deserve a punishment, without his lawyer being present, of 33years for Treason, when his act didn’t amount to any damage to Pakistan other than that of loss of image of Army (Army not equal to Pakistan).

    Most importantly, what is the message that’ll be sent out to other prospective informants – Help nab terrorists and you’ll be in jail for life???

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  • Tch tch
    May 29, 2012 - 10:49AM

    @Mirza: lol a corrupt person jailed in Pakistan?? Seriously?

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  • Tch tch
    May 29, 2012 - 10:51AM

    Though reuters is now breaking this news. This was already dug up by the local press a few weeks after OBL raid. Nothing new.

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  • CM
    May 29, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Yeah the CIA really targets honest and upstanding loyal citizens.

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  • WhatTheWhaa?
    May 29, 2012 - 11:18AM

    No but for the liberals of this country Shakil Afridi is a hero equivalent to Jinnah. Please tell me what was so heroic? The guy didnt even know what he was spying on, he could have spied on nuclear assets for all you know as long as his pockets were being stuffed by Americans. Also if he really was that imp to US, he should have been whisked to safety much before the raid, the fact Americans were the one who went public with his name, shows they were the first to throw him under the bus. The drama in Congress is just crocodile tears.

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  • Anon
    May 29, 2012 - 11:21AM

    @junaid
    Why is he a hero? Did he know he was helping the CIA find OBL? The CIA themselves said he was giving them intelligence and helping them but didnt know what the target was. He could have been spying on any sensitive national interest for the sake of money. Just because the target turned out to be OBL we should celebrate him? Its obviously that you are an Indian commenting under a Pakistani name.

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  • syed hussain
    May 29, 2012 - 11:28AM

    @Pankaj:
    pakistan was not made on principles of islam .they tried to make democracy but failed.correct yourself

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  • SouthEastAsian
    May 29, 2012 - 11:49AM

    Now they are playing the “character assassination” card. Even if the charges were true, does ‘womanizing’ constitute treason?

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  • KHURRAM
    May 29, 2012 - 11:57AM

    Mir Sadiq & Mir Jaffer Still living in our world, & they are showing themselves in these kind of incidents.

    May ALLAH protect pakistan. AMEEEN!!!!!

    Khurram

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  • Hammad
    May 29, 2012 - 12:05PM

    Don’t know why this worthless man has become so important for news. Let him rot for 33 years in jail. He is good for nothing.

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  • Hella
    May 29, 2012 - 1:25PM

    @John B , “In what year was this 2002 report written?” Quite obvious isn’t it, in 2012.

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  • Batman
    May 29, 2012 - 1:55PM

    This guy would do anything for money, good thing he is behind bars now.

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  • bangash
    May 29, 2012 - 2:06PM

    This is character assasination of Dr Shakil Afridi.

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  • Polpot
    May 29, 2012 - 2:09PM

    @Hella: “@John B , “In what year was this 2002 report written?” Quite obvious isn’t it, in 2012.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    And thereby you have proved the Eisensteien theory that time is elastic. If one travels at the speed of light in the opposite direction, one reaches 2002 from 2012 in no time.
    Congrats.

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  • Polpot
    May 29, 2012 - 2:14PM

    “Last week, a tribal court sentenced him to 33 years in prison for working with a foreign intelligence agency.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Imagine if the PM Gilani would have been prosecuted in such a Court!

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  • Polpot
    May 29, 2012 - 2:18PM

    ” a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment ”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This could have been an element of his medical practice !

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  • A. Khan
    May 29, 2012 - 3:03PM

    “Unfit for government service”

    If that is the criteria, our government services would not have any employees left.

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  • Pungi
    May 29, 2012 - 3:18PM

    Ofcourse… He being a traitor we can expect it from him, hungry for money.. Shame!!

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  • Polpot
    May 29, 2012 - 3:20PM

    @A. Khan: “Unfit for government service”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    I humbly disagree. If our Convicted PM is not unfit for Govt service….then….!!

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  • Mani
    May 29, 2012 - 4:00PM

    Something is fishy

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  • rp
    May 29, 2012 - 4:14PM

    but he killed Osama we are very much happy he had done a commendable job he sacrificed his job so that Pakistanis should live in peace

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  • Babloo
    May 29, 2012 - 5:03PM

    So he was just like any other Pakistani government servent ?

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  • anonymous
    May 29, 2012 - 5:07PM

    I know afridi since 1994, these accusations are just tip of iceberg. They didn’t mention what other things he had done earlier than 2002. He was well connected which saved him from jail but never seen a greedy person like him.

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  • hannan
    May 29, 2012 - 5:45PM

    …  Yes Shakil Afridi cooperated with the CIA  .he might have done it to toady Americans but what he did is to rid this world of the most infamous terrorist..OBL is responsible for countless deaths in the world and he was rite in our backyard and our ISI and army could,nt catch him what a shame I,d like to quote one of the lines I heard in a movie ” violence can be used for good ” and on may 2nd it was used for good …. I think pakistanis have forgotten abt rammond Davis who killed 3 pakistanis and got away with it & here shakil afridi helps in killing OBL and is  sentenced for 33 years huh ….. 

    words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance  oppression. and Corruption  And where once you had the freedom to object, .and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillence coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others,but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror Recommend

  • Cautious
    May 29, 2012 - 5:52PM

    Take away his job/livelihood, take away his freedom for life, and now besmirch his reputation knowing he’s in jail and unable to defend himself. Recommend

  • sohaib
    May 29, 2012 - 6:18PM

    Wondering why all reports in ET come from a US angle only.

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  • Hari Karnani
    May 29, 2012 - 6:29PM

    My guess is that Dr. Afridi did not pay a good enough bribe to provincial health dept. officials who wrote a report about his character.

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  • May 29, 2012 - 9:13PM

    He violated the laws of the land by launching fake polio campaign. The punishment given to traitor of Pakistan is absolutely right. CIA action of spying through a noble cause of “Polio Campaign” was an unethical act which damaged the trust of the masses over polio campaign.

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  • Nas
    May 29, 2012 - 10:13PM

    Hmm Just like our leaders then!

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  • ishrat salim
    May 29, 2012 - 10:32PM

    why Dr Fai ( Kashmiri Dr ) jailed by the Americans fro his ISI connection ? & why now so much hulabula for Dr Afridi.

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  • Sexton Blake
    May 29, 2012 - 10:44PM

    There is a saying, “if a politicians lips are moving there is a very good chance he is telling lies”. Many Pakistanis seem to feel the Pakistan Government has a stranglehold on dishonesty, fraud and corruption. Well. I have news for them. The various Pakistan Government agencies are complete amateurs compared to Western Governments in the areas of fraud and corruption. A good example. has been the derivatives fiasco of recent times. This has been complete corruption at the highest levels of banking, corporate and government levels, and nobody goes to prison except for low level patsies. Getting back to Dr, Afridi, I think we can ignore the 2002 report although it is a guide and accurately describes his character. However, he has not been sent to prison for what happened in 2002, and we should concentrate on the 2011 Abbottabad incident. Any Doctor who can go into a woman’s house and play ducks and drakes with a mother’s concern for her children and hand the data gleaned to the CIA is in my view beyond the pale. However, we expect a higher standard from our Doctors. Dr Afridi broke important legal laws for a few dollars, and transgressed Doctor/Patient confidentiality. There is a another saying. “A Doctor should do no harm”. At least intentionally. I think he got off lightly with 33 years. I always feel sorry for people who fall by the wayside, but I will feel a little less sorry for Dr. Afridi, and I hope I, and my children, never have to be treated by a Doctor with similar levels of devious professional dishonesty. Recommend

  • DB
    May 29, 2012 - 11:02PM

    @Mirza:
    Afridi was fired from government job. Ask your CIA handlers to update you on latest news please.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 2:58AM

    @DB:

    “@Mirza: Ask your CIA handlers to update you on latest news please.”

    @DB, Dude you blew poor guy’s cover. Otherwise we could go on pretending, @Mirza is just one more piplia troll. He is amusing alright.

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  • Hussain Syed
    May 30, 2012 - 4:40AM

    There is a constitution for a reason. Laws have to be rigid. Morally, it may be wrong to jail the doctor, I personally find it morally unjust. Laws do no look at what is morally just. Morality is subjective. Subject to personal opinions, which laws cannot be. The doctor has to be jailed for 33 years.

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  • zubair
    May 30, 2012 - 10:52AM

    @Mirza

    He was working as covet agent for another county. Spying for other nation is indeed an act of treason.
    Check what US done with spies from Russia.

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  • zubair
    May 30, 2012 - 10:54AM

    @bangash:

    lol character. You still believe he has some character.

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  • Polpot
    May 30, 2012 - 1:38PM

    @zubair: “Check what US done with spies from Russia.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    They were all handed out 33 year prison sentences.

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  • Polpot
    May 30, 2012 - 2:30PM

    “doctor Afridi, as a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing. ”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Did that earn him a promotion or two?

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  • Sara
    May 30, 2012 - 4:43PM

    Imagine how harshly they’d try to punish an American who secretly collaborated with a foreign intelligence service — who created a fake vaccine program for American kids …… Well said Mr Greenwald! The Imperial Mind indeed! http://www.salon.com/2012/05/26/theimperialmind/singleton/

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  • sobriquet
    May 31, 2012 - 1:27AM

    @Anon:
    @karma:
    @Anas:
    @Mirza:
    The tribal court sentenced Shakil Afridi on charges of helping the militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, and NOT for working with any US or other foreign agency. This information is freely avialable to those who look for it. By not stating the facts, Pakistan Tribune and other Pakistani news sources are proving that they are either incompetent or a mouthpiece for official Pakistani propaganda.

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