A one-man tribunal on Saturday upheld the conviction of Dr Shakil Afridi – but dropped one of the charges, reducing his jail term from 33 to 23 years.
Dr Shakil Afridi had helped American CIA to track down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad. The assistant political agent of Khyber Agency’s Bara tehsil had convicted him for maintaining ties with militants and sentenced him to 33 years in jail and Rs320, 000 fine.
However, Commissioner Peshawar Captain (retd) Munir Azam, who also serves as the Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) commissioner, deleted Section 123-A of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860, which reduced Afridi’s sentence to 23 years and his fine to Rs220, 000.
The decision also set aside the verdict of the previous commissioner, (late) Sahibzada Muhammad Anis, who had overturned the 33-year sentence on August 29, 2013 and ordered that Khyber Agency’s political agent hear the case afresh.
Dr Afridi’s counsels Samiullah Afridi and Qamar Nadeem presented before the media the decision, which was reserved on February 15.
Samiullah said that he would appeal against the decision as he wanted to have a new trial, as stipulated by the authorities in August. “This is not a right decision and we are going to challenge it in the Fata tribunal once we get the written order of the decision on Monday,” he added.
He said the Fata tribunal had remanded the case back to the FCR commissioner in order to remove all ambiguities found in the previous order of Sahibzada Anis and to write a new order. “But instead the commissioner upheld the previous sentence and only reduced it to 23 years.”
Asked on what grounds the section was deleted, Nadeem told The Express Tribune that the FCR commissioner contended that the schedule of Section 123-A of the PPC was not included in the FCR and the offences done under this section could not be heard under the tribal law.
According to the break-up of Dr Afridi’s sentence, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail under Section 121-A, 10 years under Section 123, 10 years under Section 123-A, and three years under section 142-A. All the sections were tried with Section 11 of FCR 1901 (Amended) 2011.
The United States has been constantly pressuring Pakistan to release Dr Afridi but the latter has clearly conveyed that the matter is in the court, which will decide the fate of the accused. In the start of this year, the US Congress also linked $33 million aid to the release of Dr Afridi.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2014.