A controversial interview

Published: September 13, 2012
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The ISI and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police have already denied that the interview ever took place. PHOTO: FILE

The ISI and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police have already denied that the interview ever took place. PHOTO: FILE

Fox News’ purported interview of Dr Shakil Afridi certainly makes for explosive reading but also causes one to pause in doubt. Just how did this right wing US TV organisation land an interview with someone incarcerated in Peshawar whom the intelligence agencies would ensure had no access to journalists or communication devices? The interviewer, Dominic Di-Natale, claimed on Twitter that he personally spoke to Afridi for 40 minutes and that he was unable to explain how he landed the interview in order to protect those who helped him secure it.

The most likely explanation for this is that Di-Natale was able to smuggle a telephone to Afridi. This, too, raises another set of questions. Does that mean prison guards, who would certainly thoroughly check any visitors Afridi had, were part of the process? And though Di-Natale claims that he asked Afridi key questions to ascertain his identity, wouldn’t intelligence officials who interrogated him also know the answers to those questions? The ISI and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police have already denied that the interview ever took place, but both have an obvious incentive to lie about what they would consider a major security breach. The ISI also claims that the cell where Afridi is being held employs cell phone jammers which, again, would make sense.

Then there are the sensational claims attributed to Afridi in the interview. He says that the ISI sees the US as a bigger threat to Pakistan than even India and details how he was held at Aabpara in solitary confinement. Claims of torture have also been made and Afridi declares that he was proud to have worked for the CIA. Not only do the contents of the interview conveniently stick to the US narrative and feed into every suspicion the US holds about Pakistan, they all but ensure that Afridi will face even more torture for his heresy. Amid the confusion, conspiracy theories are bound to flourish. Maybe, many would suggest, the ground is being laid for a prisoner swap where Afridi would be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui. At this time, the truth is too murky to be certain.

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

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Mirza
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:45AM

    This is a fair and balanced Op Ed by the editors and thanks for that. Dr. Afridi cannot have access to cell phone in jail while the fanatic terrorists have it openly. Talking about facts and honesty it would be a good idea to release the full facts regarding the presence of OBL in army base for better part of a decade. If we do not tell the truth then we have no right to doubt the other side. Hiding and suppressing the truth is worse than lying.

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  • Basit
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:26AM

    Mirza:
    “…it would be a good idea to release the full facts regarding the presence of OBL in army base for better part of a decade. “

    Perhaps you can start with the basic facts by acknowledging that OBL was in private house and not on any army base. Abbottabad is not an army base, and anything a mile away in Pakistan, might as well be a different city. There can be thousands of people living with a mile of any military base in Pakistan.

    Please improve the quality of your propaganda.

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  • Imran Con
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:09AM

    “Maybe, many would suggest, the ground is being laid for a prisoner swap where Afridi would be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui.”
    Get this out of your head. It will never happen. It will also be looked at as Pakistan trading someone they arrested for helping kill OBL in exchange for a terrorist that isn’t even a Pakistani national but still receives support that strongly. Pakistan’s image takes enough of a beating as it is in regard to their support for terrorists.
    It’s true Fox news can be considered a tabloid half the time. I’m not a fan and I won’t defend them. But, when you have articles about high profile prisoners and their possession of cell phones allowing them to still have their involvement in planning sectarian killing operations and terrorist operations, you can’t very well say that Afridi could not have ended up with one without also saying that they’re basically being handed to those other prisoners by the ISI. As for the jammers… Yeah, as if Pakistan’s technological security rank is anywhere near respectable. Do I really need to list the things that should have both figuratively and literally been on their radar but somehow weren’t?

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  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:11AM

    Well what about the Bannu jailbreak. Was guidance on where to go and what to do not received from within the jails using cellphones?

    Did someone in prison not call Zardari right after 26/11 using a cellphone and pretending to be Pranav Muherjee (the then foreign minister) threatening to go to war?

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  • sabi
    Sep 13, 2012 - 3:36AM

    Isn’t it a fake interview if not then what favour this man is going to get, but further harassment and wrath.of agencies.Highly doubtfull. I think we may hear some denial from Shakil Afridi soon.

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  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Sep 13, 2012 - 4:46AM

    There is another more plausible likely explanation to Dr Afridi’s access to phone . Police officers in charge of prisoners in South Asia are very well known to extend special facilities and favors to prisoners for bakshish.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:30AM

    I do not think Fox News will fake the fact that an interview had been conducted. Of course the contents of the interview may lack credibility till as and when the transcripts get released. So far from available information of the interview the contents seem pretty tame and contain nothing which is not known to the people.

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  • Cautious
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:53AM

    So what was said that the Editor thinks is controversial? Does anyone really doubt that the ISI hates the USA or that the govt of Pakistan wants the aid while promoting hatred of the USA? Everyone knows that your prisoners have ready access to cell phones and I doubt there is a cell phone jammer in any prison in Pakistan.

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  • tania
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:03AM

    When Pakistan’s govt can send back someone like Raymond Davis, who killed two innocent men, just to be in America’s good books, arranging for Shakil Afridi to be interviewed cant be that hard.

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:39AM

    Its quite hazy if the interview has rally taken place. But if it has indeed taken place then Mr. Afridi has embraced more problems for himself and his family members. The kind of language used against Pakistan and the institutions only prove that he was desperately pleading for help from those very institutions of US whom he helped to achieve their ultimate goal. I don’t know how much good this interview would do for the country of Pakistan!!

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  • Sidewinder
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:28PM

    @Basit
    if i were Osama,the most wanted terrorist(apparently in Pak too),i would choose to live so close to a military base only if either i had lost my marbles or I was assured by some higher ups that i will remained untouched.

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