Shakil Afridi: still guilty

Published: September 12, 2012

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

For some reason, the imprisonment of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who worked with the CIA to carry out a fake vaccination campaign, continues to be a symbol of Pakistan’s perfidy in sheltering Osama bin Laden and proof that we are on the ‘other’ side when it comes to the war against militancy. A purported interview of Afridi from his prison cell, presumably by telephone, by Fox News has seemingly confirmed that the ISI, and by extension, the military see the US as the biggest threat facing the country. Added to that, the proposed expulsion of foreign workers of the NGO Save the Children for introducing Afridi to the CIA has also brought his case renewed attention.

A US Congressman has gone so far as to claim that the Afridi interview proves Pakistan is in league with the terrorists. This would be akin to assuming that the Americans’ continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, who stole nuclear secrets from the US on behalf of Israel, is the smoking gun which shows that the US is actually on the side of Israel’s enemies.

Since so many seem to think Afridi should not be in jail, it would be useful to remember just what he did. He knowingly gave vaccinations to people that would never be completed and thus would be effectively useless and, in the process of doing so, collected their DNA. He then handed over the DNA samples to a foreign intelligence service. This, on its own, would have been enough to convict him of conspiring against his country. Added to that is the fact that it is extremely unlikely that Afridi knew exactly why he was recruited to collect DNA samples on behalf of the CIA. The hunt for Osama bin Laden was carried out in secret with only a select few in the know about exact details. Those details would never have been freely discussed with a random Pakhtun doctor. Essentially, Afridi did it for the money. For that, some punishment is in order.

Afridi’s obvious guilt should not be taken as an endorsement of the way his trial was conducted. Charging him under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which is far less transparent than the regular justice system, was a move borne out of a desire for a quick conviction and a need to stop the US from turning his trial into a public circus. He also should have been tried for the main charge against him — that of spying for the CIA — rather than colluding with militants, much the same way Aafia Siddiqui should have been tried for her terrorist ties rather than the shooting incident in Bagram.

The case of the Save the Children workers is a bit trickier. Anyone who is familiar with the CIA’s operations since it was established after the Second World War knows that it has a history of recruiting foreign NGO workers, placing its agents in these organisations and trying to get locals to do its bidding. There is no reason for Pakistan to be an exception.

Given the paranoia about CIA agents in the country, though, accusing anyone directly of links to the agency makes everyone who works at that particular organisation a target. Although the government is not liable to provide proof before deporting these people, it should do so anyway simply to make it clear that it is not making the NGO workers scapegoats. American influence in the country is a real problem and there are many powerful people whose fortune is dependent on it. To stave off the inevitable criticism, the government needs to cover its backside.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.

Reader Comments (43)

  • Lala Gee
    Sep 12, 2012 - 10:54PM

    A neutral op-ed describing the facts as they are without any twisting.

    Recommend

  • Khan Jr
    Sep 12, 2012 - 10:57PM

    If providing secret information to foreign governments is a serious crime (which as it ought to be) then our leadership from Ayub Khan (from the time he was C-in-C of the Army), and many of those who followed him, should have been locked up as well.
    Previous secret documents released by US government and now in the public domain reveal that it was almost traditional for our leadership to provide secret and confidential details to the US Ambassador (and in earlier days to the UK High Commissioner as well).
    Perhaps Shakil Afridi was just aping our leaders. Taking money from the US is now an old and established tradition, isn’t it?

    Recommend

  • Sep 12, 2012 - 10:59PM

    The decision of whether or not Afridi is guilty of treason to Pakistan must rest with the people of Pakistan as expressed in a jury trial, not a show by Pakistani bureaucrats. Betraying the bureaucrats is not the same as betraying the nation.

    Recommend

  • sidjeen
    Sep 12, 2012 - 11:29PM

    lame arguments. Even if Dr Afridi colluded with a foreign intelligence agency to help in the capture or killing of bin laden so what our security and intelligence agencies has been doing that overtly for the last ten years and covertly for the last 60 years but since their “patriotism” is beyond question its OK. he collected DNA samples from people none of whom are Pakistani citizens. their are so many arguments in favor of Dr Afridi and against his conviction that it would probably need another article but the real question is did bin laden’s killing harmed Pakistan’s interests in anyway if no then why convict Dr Afridi and if yes then………….Recommend

  • harkol
    Sep 12, 2012 - 11:46PM

    Mr. Hasan: By all means punish Afridi, for his commissions. But, do show the same alacrity and efficiency in punishing folks who indeed killed/maimed people or provided support network. You can’t have the paradox of most terrorists running free while a person who helped catch terrorist was swiftly punished.

    No amount of justifications will fly, when terrorists are given full benefit of legal safeguards, while Afridi was punished by a Kangaroo court.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:37AM

    Mr. Hassan makes a comparison between Dr, Afridi and Dr. Siddiqui, which suggests that the allegations against them have similarities, in that America and Pakistan used the most convenient method of giving them hefty prison sentences. Mr.Hassan may be correct but, on the face of it, comparing the two would appear to be somewhat different from what a quick review would indicate. The Americans had their hands on Dr. Siddiqui for quite some time, and in spite of their enhanced interrogation techniques could not come up with any serious charges other than the Dr. had supposed terrorist type literature and such like. It has been said by legal experts in the US that Dr. Siddiqui was charged with the lesser crime of assaulting a prison guard to speed the matter up. This does not gel because America has been quite happy to have people in detention for 12 years or so without charge. When Dr. Saddiqui was charged in America she was provided with lawyers she did not want, who suggested that she was mentally deranged. The court appointed lawyers were Jewish. It would not bother most people, but I cannot think of many Muslims requesting a Jewish lawyer, deranged or not. In contrast, the charges against Dr. Afridi are reasonably clear. He colluded with the secret service of a foreign power against the interests of his own government, and would have had to be aware of the risk he was taking.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:49AM

    Dr. Afridi should be punished to full extent of the law.
    The protectors of OBL should be our national hero.
    There should be no terrorist left behind. All of them should be released and free.
    High treason and aiding and abetting in hi treason is not a crime especially committed by generals and judges but getting rid of the world of the worst terrorist is a crime that cannot be forgiven. Dr. Aridi’s real crime is he unmasked the worst enemies of humanity for that our deep state cannot forgive him.

    Recommend

  • Lala Gee
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:59AM

    @Khan Jr:

    “If providing secret information to foreign governments is a serious crime (which as it ought to be) then our leadership from Ayub Khan (from the time he was C-in-C of the Army), and many of those who followed him, should have been locked up as well.”

    You are keeping up with your reputation. Following your reasoning, government to government dealing is akin to treachery and all those acting on behalf of the government are foreign agents and hence must be charged with the crime of treason. And, if ‘gtg’ dealing is not considered a crime, then all the acts of foreign spies and their local agents should also not be considered as crime. Great logic straight out of Langley.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:24AM

    In people’s court he is accused for running an unauthorized hepatitis campaign (please note it was not a FAKE campaign nor was it about poloio, no harm occurred to the kids who were vacinated. HAd he not been arrested he would followed up with booster shots and the kids could actually have benefitted. So really this was about the ethics of breaching the privacy of 2-3 of his patients. HE certainly should be tried for it. But this is not what he has been charged with.

    Some people think he knew the campaign was being conducted for CIA and hence betrayed the country and should be punished for it, others think he shoudl be rewarded for leading US to OBL and some believethat he did not know who his masters were, he was just doing a project in lieu of money. One way or another, this is also not part of the chargesheet. For people who think he spied for CIA, they should prove that he knew who he was working for in a court of law.

    What he has been tried in FATA under FCR without access to a lawyer for a crime he committed in Islamabad is his supposed support for LeJ. A 33 years imprisonment for ‘supporting’ a terrorist organization in a country where Malik Ishaq roams free, where Lal masjid cleric was acquitted and where apparently the whole missing persons issue exists because judiciary has not convicted a single terrorist despite 40,000 Pakistanis dying of terrorism.

    Since he has not received due process in any Pakistani court, the question arises, what is your basis for stating that he is guilty. At the most you can say, he needs to get an expeditious trial for medical malpractice/ treason for collaborating with a foreign spy agency.

    A borader question that this trial brought up that media seems to not have picked up on is the type of absurd manner in which anyone n FATA can get convicted without any due process. For those that oppose drones because they represent execution without trial, are you not upset that all FATA residents who are Pakistani residents are institutionally denied due process by keeping them under FCR?

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:26AM

    “He knowingly gave vaccinations to people that would never be completed and thus would be effectively useless and, in the process of doing so, collected their DNA”

    He would have completed vaccinations if he had not been arrested or at least that is a reasonable asumption. Secndly he collected DNA samples only from the kids of OBL home – no-one else.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:33AM

    @Mirza: “There should be no terrorist left behind. All of them should be released and free”.

    Mirzaji your request cannot becomplied with unfortunately. The terrorists are all free anyway so how can you release someone who is not in captivity?

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:40AM

    @Sexton Blake: You are concerned that Aafia was providd with a Jewish lawyer, well Afridi was provided with none. Aafia had a proper trial in a court under the laws of the land Afridi had none. The charge of colluding with secret agancy of another government might appear fairly clear to you but it is ot one he has been charged with, so obviously the prosecuting team must not have reached the same conclusion as you. Recommend

  • Imran Con
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:22AM

    Here I thought these sad defenses were done with.
    Hi. You can not claim he is guilty and rightfully jailed for something he was never charged with to this day. It’s that simple. No matter how long winded and detailed your reasoning is, as long as he wasn’t charged with the things you claim he is guilty of, it’s not a defense for his imprisonment.

    Recommend

  • Ijaz Mir
    Sep 13, 2012 - 4:37AM

    Once upon a time OBL was my hero. But he became zero when he made a u turn from freedom fighter to a terrorist. OBL is responsible for the destruction of Afghanistan. There was a head money of 40 million for dead or alive OBL. He was not a Pakistani citizen. If he is hiding in Pakistan, he is common criminal to pass on information about him to to a country where he has committed a serious crime for reward is no crime. I was looking for him very seriously, I question myself if I am Osama and fujative where I will hide I am familiar with Waziristan,Chitral and Hazara.. My first choice was Chitral final Hazara. Waziristan was completely out . I spent lot of money and time could not find him in Chitral.
    His trail in Hazara was very hot..
    But there were two questions. If he is staying in Pakistan by the blessing of USA and take him out at the time of Presidential election(Bush). But in any case without the blessing of Pakistan it is not possible. I decided to give up my search as I am too old to spend my old age in any prison. It was a good hunting.
    Now this DR, Shakil has done nothing wrong,he just verfied that this guy is Osama, This was done in Hazara but he trail was in FATA under different old coloinal law is not correct.
    let him go.He has done nothing wrong
    I still love Pakistan

    Recommend

  • Noman Ansari
    Sep 13, 2012 - 5:22AM

    This would be akin to assuming that
    the Americans’ continued incarceration
    of Jonathan Pollard, who stole nuclear
    secrets from the US on behalf of
    Israel, is the smoking gun which shows
    that the US is actually on the side of
    Israel’s enemies.

    Brilliant.

    Recommend

  • Feroz
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:43AM

    As long as Dr Afridi remains incarcerated without a fair and open trial it will be clear as crystal that the Pakistani State has a lot to answer for. No longer will the cry “we are victims of terrorism” hold. Such vindictiveness and the alacrity with which Dr Afridi was put on trial on some other dubious charges does not wash. If the same keenness was displayed in finding out about how OBL found a home, credibility of claims would have been better. The Establishment has a lot to answer for in putting Pakistan to this embarassing position because of their deceitful ways.

    Recommend

  • Kamran
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:35AM

    Before labelling Afridi right or wrong can Pakistan answer what was a non Pakistani doing hiding in Pakistan.If Afridi has comitted a crime then all non Pakistanis who have a feud with other countries should live safely in Pakistan and who ever identifies them for money or not should be called a criminal.

    Recommend

  • wonderer
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:21AM

    Afridi is guilty of nothing other than exposing duplicity of the Pakistani establishment. A time will come when he will be honored for that.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Sep 13, 2012 - 8:28AM

    @gp65:
    Yes you are right again. It is funny comment and made me chuckle.
    Thanks,
    Mirza

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:19AM

    @gp65:
    Dear gp65,
    It is satisfying to know that we are not on the same wavelength.

    Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:23AM

    The argument seemd to be, * Irrespective of the reasons/goals, working with CIA and getting money for that is proof of guilt and must be punished*.

    Let us apply this to the Afghan Jihad,

    A. The Brass worked with the CIA.

    B. The Brass got rich in the process.

    C. Therefore, the Brass is gulty too.

    PS-Please don’t bother with the reasons/ goals, as those do not matter.

    Recommend

  • Sep 13, 2012 - 9:39AM

    and you are writing this for money… so you, too, should be punished ???

    Recommend

  • Musharraf
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:33AM

    He should be hanged

    Recommend

  • Raza Khan
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:48AM

    Wrong! He helped the world kill the biggest terrorist who killed innocent civilians on 9/11. He is a hero. He put his life on stake.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:24PM

    @Sexton Blake: “Dear gp65,
    It is satisfying to know that we are not on the same wavelength.”

    Disagreement is fine. Thank you for being civil about it.

    Recommend

  • zeeshan sheikh
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:39PM

    Liberal elite of Pakistan don’t care whether he endangered the childrens of Pakistan or conspiring against the Pakistan. All they care is that shakil afridi helped USA which Liberal Elite worships and consider it there real home.

    Recommend

  • Ozymandias
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:51PM

    The author is correct. Shakil Afridi is guilty.

    Recommend

  • Mahesh Patil
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:54PM

    Author is absolutely right.Dr.Afridi is a traitor and punishment should be exemplary without right to appeal and Deep State heroes should be honoured with Noble Peace Prize for protecting innocent saint OBL for five years and milking American tax payer money to hunt him.

    Recommend

  • Ozymandias
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:04PM

    @Raza Khan:
    Do you really think they told him who they were after?

    Recommend

  • Sep 13, 2012 - 5:30PM

    Unfortunately for Pakistan, the world works on its own rules. Afridi might not be a criminal in Pakistan or he might not be, but he is a hero, forget being a criminal, in the outside world.

    Pakistan is stuck between a rock and a hard place.Recommend

  • James Bond
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:00PM

    FATA court is also part of our AZAD UDDLIA. Bravo to FATA Court providing swift and quick justice. Now I wonder if this FATA court will take action against those individual who helped TTP killing innocent Pakistani including children.

    Recommend

  • Neil Michael
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:37PM

    Comparing Jonathan Pollard with Afridi is foolish!!! Being America’s most favored nation, Israel would have been provided the nuclear know-how if America wished so. But it didn’t. Pollard stole nuclear secrets from his country and provided them to another – consequence of which is a covert enlargement of the nuclear club….a belligerent Israel ready to take preemptive action. Now let’s take Afridi’s case. Yes, he helped your ally in a covert operation – the result of which was the capture and death of the most dreaded terrorist…someone whose very presence on Pakistan’s soil was enough for the world to point a finger at it….this activity has done no harm to the nation…but has done harm of monumental proportions to the people who protected him…these are the very people who have know connived to put him behind bars!!! Instead of basking in Afridi’s glory, Pakisan chooses to be shamed by his heroic act!!!

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:58PM

    @Noman Ansari: “This would be akin to assuming that
    the Americans’ continued incarceration
    of Jonathan Pollard, who stole nuclear
    secrets from the US on behalf of
    Israel, is the smoking gun which shows
    that the US is actually on the side of
    Israel’s enemies.

    Brilliant. “

    There are key 3 differences between Jonathan Polard and Afridi’s case which make this an aples to oranges comparison:
    1. Afridi is believed to help out Osama – US enemy no.1. Pollard did not help out any Israeli enemy no.1 e.g. some big Nazi war criminal hiding in US
    2. Afridi was never charged with espionage, Pollard was
    3. Afridi did not get due process of law before conviction, Pollard did.

    Recommend

  • Sidewinder
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:57PM

    Afridi’s crime is lesser than Musharraf’s as latter sold convicts to US for money.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 14, 2012 - 3:48AM

    There appears to be a lot of people who consider Dr. Afridi to be a hero who did not get a fair trial. He actually did get a trial even if some people disagree with its outcome. However, for those people who consider he was treated badly, I can only advise them not to emulate the Doctor by colluding with the spy agencies of foreign countries if there is any chance of being caught. My experience with countries is limited, but I can only advise them not to try it in America, UK, Australia, Canada, France, and especially in America. In the US you may get a trial after spending ten years or so in a Cuban detention camp, but it would probably be in a military court, and if you are lucky will be sentenced to 80 years or so in prison. Once you start getting in the way of the big guys the outcome is usually not very nice despite the nobility of ones cause.

    Recommend

  • Lemon
    Sep 14, 2012 - 8:53AM

    Your comparison of Dr Afridi and Jonathan Pollard is one the money. In the case of Jonathan Pollard, he gave away the details of USs “nuclear” asset to a friendly ally and Dr Afrdi gave away the details of Pakistan’s strategic “jackpot” asset to another “friend but not friend” ally. In both case Justice has to be served !!

    Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 14, 2012 - 6:56PM

    @Sexton Blake:

    In the US you may get a trial after spending ten years or so in a Cuban detention camp, but it would probably be in a military court, and if you are lucky will be sentenced to 80 years or so in prison.

    Looks loke you never heard of Dr Fai, the ISI mole in USA.

    Recommend

  • Sep 14, 2012 - 7:40PM

    This would be akin to assuming that
    the Americans’ continued incarceration
    of Jonathan Pollard, who stole nuclear
    secrets from the US on behalf of
    Israel, is the smoking gun which shows
    that the US is actually on the side of
    Israel’s enemies.

    Incorrect. Pollard took an oath to follow the Constitution and serve the U.S. government and he betrayed that. Dr. Afridi took no such oath to the government of Pakistan. Thus, he can’t be condemned for treason to his country by the government of Pakistan; only a representative jury trial can do that.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 15, 2012 - 1:11AM

    @observer:
    You suggest I have not heard of Dr. Fai. If you are referring to Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, the admired Kashmiri activist you are incorrect. He was sentenced in the US for 2 years in prison due to Internal Revenue (taxation) offenses.

    Solomon2,
    You must have different laws from my country.? Where I come from it is presumed everyone has knowledge of the law and you break those laws at your peril. Regardless of Dr. Afridi’s nobility he regretfully broke the law and now to coin an old adage “he is paying the piper”. Additionally, I do not feel too sorry for Dr. Afridi. He was involved in a plot to dispose of O. B. Laden without a trial. At least the Doctor has received a trial even if some people do not approve of the results.

    Recommend

  • Sep 15, 2012 - 3:23AM

    “Regardless of Dr. Afridi’s nobility he regretfully broke the law “

    Did he? What law? He had no access to secret state documents so he can’t be guilty of espionage. The vaccines he administered were genuine. He swore no oath of loyalty to Pakistan’s government. So what did he do? I submit that in a real court he would have been acquitted of any drastic charges.

    Look at it this way. If you, Sexton, were an American and decided to work for a Pakistani friend to seek out one of the renegade officers who tried to knock off Musharraf a decade ago you’d be a private detective. I think that at most you’d be guilty of failing to register that with the government. So what if you didn’t tell the FBI before telling your Pakistani friend!

    Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:29AM

    @Sexton Blake:

    Regardless of Dr. Afridi’s nobility he regretfully broke

    Are you sure there is some law somewhere against collection of blood samples?

    Citation will be appreciated.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:55AM

    @Solomon2: “If you, Sexton, were an American and decided to work for a Pakistani friend to seek out one of the renegade officers who tried to knock off Musharraf a decade ago you’d be a private detective”

    That is a unique and legitimate perspective to the whole issue I had not considered earlier. Thank you for articulating it. Of course the broader problem I have still remains i.e. no one has charged hm with espionage. He was charged for supporting terrorism and contrary to what Sexton says there is no expectation that a terrorist will be convicted in Pakistan based on current track record of 40,000 deaths and 0 convictions.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 15, 2012 - 11:45AM

    @gp65:
    Dear gp65,
    Thank you for articulating “40,000 deaths and 0 convictions”. You obviously support a country other than Pakistan. It may come as a surprise to you that Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered over two million dead and seriously injured as a result of the current US/NATO adventure, and to date zero convictions. Pakistan does not look too bad does it?

    Recommend

More in Opinion