Keeping Dr Shakil Afridi in Peshawar’s central prison is akin to keeping him in plain sight of the Taliban who are purportedly baying for his blood, say intelligence officials.
Afridi, who helped the American CIA hunt down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, faces a grave threat to his life while he is imprisoned in the Peshawar Central Jail, according to an intelligence report submitted to authorities in Islamabad. The doctor was sentenced to 33 years in prison by an assistant political agent on Wednesday.
The location and accessibility of the prison make it an easy target for the Taliban, say officials who have compiled the report which also refers to the recent jailbreak in Bannu.
Flanked on one side by the Grand Trunk Road, and the other three sides by the congested area of Saddar, the central jail can easily be targeted by militants, especially those from the adjoining Khyber Agency, the report says.
According to intelligence sources, the Taliban are considering two options at the moment. They will attack the prison, take Dr Afridi with them and have their leadership decide his fate, or have an inmate from the jail kill the doctor.
“Yes, the Peshawar prison might be attacked,” said a prison official, citing the attacks on Bannu jail and the CID police station, situated in Peshawar’s red zone.
Officials recommend that Dr Afridi is shifted to Islamabad for now before a future plan is chalked out. Much would depend on his future course of action if he decides to appeal the political administration’s verdict.
The report says that intelligence authorities met Dr Afridi along with a panel of doctors when he was shifted to the prison. His mental and physical condition is good and a medical team of Peshawar prison has been directed to monitor his health, the report adds.
Minister for Prisons Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Mian Nisar Gul Kakakhel, and Inspector General Prisons Khalid Abbas did not comment when asked about arrangements made for Dr Afridi, given the threats from the Taliban.
The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on the other hand, said that they would kill Dr Afridi to “avenge Sheikh Osama’s killing”.
“We consider Dr Shakil Afridi our avowed enemy. Our fighters will kill him wherever they find him,” TTP’s Deputy chief Waliur Rehman told The Express Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location in tribal regions.
“He has done everything for money,” Rehman said referring to Dr Afridi’s role in helping the CIA track down Bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound through a phony vaccination drive. “We will get him (Dr Afridi) as soon as possible to avenge the killing of Sheikh Osama,” the TTP deputy chief added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.