Court of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) Commissioner Sahibzada Anees has reserved its judgment on an appeal in favour of alleged CIA informant Dr Shakil Afridi challenging his conviction by a tribal court till May 2.
The verdict from the commissioner will come on the same day the United States marks the second anniversary of its special forces’ secret night raid on al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad.
Dr Shakil Afridi has appealed against his conviction which came on May 24, 2011, sentencing him to 33 years in prison for aiding banned outfit Lashkar-e-Islam.
Afridi is also accused of working with the US by launching a fake polio vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to help hunt down the man said to be responsible for the coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2011.
On Thursday, during the 13th hearing of the appeal filed by a panel of lawyers from the tribal areas, Afridi’s counsels argued a tribal court sentencing Afridi was against the law and beyond its jurisdiction.
They contended initiating a trial under the charges against their client required approval of the federal or provincial government. Neither of the governments had filed a complaint against the client, they claimed.
“Afridi has been convicted under sections 121A, 123, 123A, 124 and Section 11 of the FCR. Under such sections, it is mandatory for either the provincial government or federal government to file a case,” said Samiullah Afridi, one of Afridi’s councils. Samiullah added the government was yet to approve of holding proceedings against his client.
The counsels argued that since Afridi had been sentenced by the assistant political agent (APA) of Bara tehsil in Khyber Agency, the defendant could not be sentenced for 33 years as under the FCR the APA could only imprison a person for three years.
The panel of lawyers also contended the tribal court had failed to produce any proof against Afridi and requested the orders issued by the APA on May 24, 2011 be declared null and void.
The first hearing of the case took place on June 21, 2012. The case is yet to be decided after 11 months even though the FCR mandates cases registered before the FCR Commissioner must be decided within 60 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2013.