In a new twist to the case of Dr Shakeel Afridi, a tribal physician accused of helping the American CIA track down al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound has denied a confession attributed to him in an investigation report.
Qamar Nadeem Afridi, the attorney for Dr Afridi, denied the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report, including a purported confessional statement of Dr Afridi as well as his admittance of carrying out a ‘phoney’ vaccination campaign on his own.
“At a recent meeting, I handed over a copy of the JIT report to Dr Afridi who told me that everything attributed to him in the document was baseless,” added the counsel.
According to him, Dr Afridi was nominated for the vaccination drive by Coordinator for National Programme on Family Planning and Primary Healthcare, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Ehsanullah Turabi.
The lawyer also clarified that his client had carried out a hepatitis vaccination drive and not a polio campaign and that it was arranged and run under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Programme for the Prevention and Control of Hepatitis.
According to him, Dr Turabi was in charge of the programme that appointed Dr Afridi as supervisor for Abbottabad and had provided him with a staff comprising 18-20 members from the district headquarters hospital in Abbottabad.
In the JIT report, Dr Afridi had admitted that he was asked by one of his five ‘handlers’ to carry out the hepatitis vaccination in Abbottabad and return to Islamabad with the results.
Dr Afridi also denied he was in league with American spooks or was directly involved in the top-secret raid by US commandos that killed Bin Laden.
“I had no idea about what was going on…I came to know about the raid only after the US defence secretary took my name and I was arrested,” Afridi was quoted as saying by his lawyer.
The JIT report, on the other hand, claimed Dr Afridi had confessed that he was asked by one of his ‘handlers’ to flee to Afghanistan soon after the Abbottabad raid.
Since his arrest, Dr Afridi’s family has shifted to an unknown place in Pakistan after receiving death threats in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, according to his lawyer.
Dr Afridi’s brother, Jamil Afridi, confirmed his brother’s conversation with his lawyer.
“The connection with the CIA was established by someone else while my brother had no idea that he is being used to assist the secret operation … he was just obeying the instructions deeming it a part of his duty,” Jamil Afridi told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.