First, what else but the horrendous fire in a Karachi garment factory in which nearly 300 poor souls have already died agonising deaths, and some are injured beyond imagination. Where were the tens of blood-sucking agencies that are the bane of the lives of factory owners: the civil defence wallahs; the provincial government electricity inspectors (yes, in addition to Wapda/KESC); the safety inspectors; the fire inspectors?
A clothing manufactory is a ‘fire-friendly’ environment what with the new synthetic wonder materials; the miles and miles of wiring; the fuse boxes. Were there enough fire extinguishers within easy reach of the workers in case of a fire? Were ‘No-Smoking’ rules enforced? There are so many questions; so much hurt; so much pain. And a deep, deep anger.
Someone asked on Twitter if anyone would bet five rupees that nothing will happen to anyone: not the owners; not the managers; not the government departments responsible for safety in the factory which took so many hard-working; poor; and innocent, lives and hurt so many more. I did not take the bet.
And now to the so-called interview that Dr Shakil Afridi, undergoing a 31-year sentence in Peshawar’s Central Jail, is purported to have given to Fox News’s Dominic Di-Natale, published on the channel’s website on September 10, 2012.
Highly mystifying to say the least, so I talked to, and tweeted and emailed some friends in the one day between the news exploding in our faces and my writing this piece to try to unravel the mystery.
People who know how our jails are administered, or shall we say mal-administered, say it is possible that the interview was indeed given, considering that anyone can do anything in these jails so long as you have friends in high places, and therefore, the influence. As evidence they quote the man convicted in the case of Daniel Pearl’s beheading, Ahmad Omar Saeed Shiekh’s telephone call to President Zardari from jail after the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
They do not take into account that whilst in the eyes of many members of Pakistan’s Ghairat Brigades Omar Shiekh is a hero for his Jihadism: kidnapping tourists in Kashmir; having a hand in Pearl’s killing: Dr Afridi is a filthy traitor who helped the Americans find and kill Bin Laden. (It has always escaped me, however, how and why, a man who supposedly helped find the killer of thousands of Pakistanis, including those in the services and paramilitary forces can be termed a traitor? Oh, well…).
So, it follows that whilst a man such as Sheikh would have influence to do as he pleases in jail; Afridi would not get the time of day from his jailers, and from their watchers (you-know-who). Also, he would be most closely monitored, not only so that he is not harmed whilst in the custody of a government whose agencies do not have a very fair name when it comes to violence and extra-judicial murder; but also because a traitor can have no contact with the outside world in case he lets on to other information he might have.
Others insist that even Fox News, not known for either probity or truthfulness or, God forbid, fairness, could not have mounted such a big lie; of manufacturing an interview where none existed. That the interview in some shape or form: a smuggled cell-phone; a written interview; must have taken place, and that Fox News must have some proof. People in the know also say Fox have been trying for months to get Afridi on the record and might well have heavily bribed their way to one.
I simply do not buy this line of reasoning. Pakistani jailers while notorious for bribery and corruption, and in return providing any and all services to their wards for the right price, would simply not have the gumption or the effrontery of doing so for a high-profile ‘enemy of the country’, designated as such by none other than the security establishment.
I would go several steps further: as far as to say that Afridi is in all probability watched round-the-clock by agents of none other than the ISI itself. Remember that he is accused of getting close to Bin Laden without anyone knowing, until Leon Panetta, for reasons best known to himself, let it be known that Afridi had helped ‘unearth’ the terrorist.
Remember too that when Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad Cantonment in a unilateral raid by US SEALs, much egg found its way on to many a face and trickled down on to many a bemedalled breast. Afridi is, therefore, a much-hated villain in the eyes of the Deep State which would do it’s all to keep him under deep wraps.
Still others insist that the interview did happen but under the direct supervision of the ISI to send the Americans a message. Unless the ISI is growing a new skin, what message pray? That a high-risk, high security prisoner, who helped another power breach his own country’s sovereignty can speak to international news channels at his leisure?
I don’t believe a word of this interview. And know what clinched it for me?
The interviewer saying: “The doctor, who also used to act as a surgeon despite not being clinically qualified to perform procedures, said he (was) forced to work as a general practitioner, treating both staff and detainees in the detention centre. I was told to treat patients and prescribe medicine. Mostly ISI servicemen came to me for advice and prescriptions. I was told that the ISI doctor had said that anyone or everyone could go to Dr Shakil for medical purposes.”
I ask you! The ISI would send its agents to Shakil Afridi for treatment? The ISI that is famed to be a most excellent 5-star employer? And which is flush with funds to be able to afford the best medical care in the world for its own? The ISI would send its people (for treatment!) to a prisoner it had recently tortured? What utter tripe. Fox is lying until it provides proof that it did, indeed, interview Afridi.
Stop Press: Or is it a ploy by the powers to prepare the ground for Afridi’s dispatch to the ‘Promised Land’. See my piece.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.