Dr Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, had turned down an opportunity to leave Pakistan and resettle overseas with his family, two US officials said.
The US officials said the resettlement offer for Dr Afridi came about the time of last year’s raid in which US commandos killed the al Qaeda leader at his complex in Abbottabad.
They indicated that Dr Afridi’s family would have been welcome to leave Pakistan with him as part of the resettlement plan. The officials said he rejected the offer for reasons that are unclear.
Dr Afridi was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment by an assistant political agent of Khyber Agency and is currently being held in Peshawar, where authorities fear his life may be under threat.
“Before he was arrested, Dr Afridi was offered opportunities to leave Pakistan with his family but he turned those down,” one of the US officials said.
“No one, including the doctor, could have foreseen that Pakistan would punish so severely someone whose work benefited the country,” the official said.
Another official said Afridi may have believed that rather than becoming the object of character attacks and accusations of treason by Pakistani authorities, he might instead have won praise for his role in helping rid Pakistan of a threat to its security.
The White House and State department declined to comment on the matter.
Fears for safety
Meanwhile, a dispute between federal and provincial authorities has surfaced after the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government wrote a letter to the federal government requesting to shift Dr Afridi from Peshawar’s central prison.
Sources within the K-P Home and Tribal Affairs Department confirmed that the letter was written last week, to which the federal government is yet to respond.
“Dr Afridi’s life is in danger and we have been in close contact with the federal government. We wrote them a letter to shift Dr Afridi, probably to Adiala Jail. However, we are yet to receive a response,” the officials said.
“There are more than 3,000 prisoners here and 250 of them are incarcerated on terror charges. These diehard militants could attack Dr Afridi,” K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP.
Strict security measures have been taken inside the Peshawar prison.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY UMER FAROOQ IN PESHAWAR)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.