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Pakistan resists US pressure to release Dr Shakil Afridi

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Pakistan government has ruled out release of CIA collaborator Dr Shakil Afridi under pressure from the United States.

The Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly press briefing on Thursday that there is no question of the release of Dr Shakil Afridi on the request of the US as his case is sub-judice.

Tasnim Aslam's statement alluded to signing a bill by US President Barack Obama that proposes to withhold $33 million from assistance to Pakistan on account of Dr Afridi's detention.

The spokesperson emphasized that the US aid is not related to Dr Afridi.

"Dr. Shakil Afridi, a citizen of Pakistan, is accused of having violated the country's laws. His action also caused immense damage to the polio campaign in the country," Tasnim Aslam added.

Contained within the $1.1 trillion spending bill signed by President Obama on January 17, are also provisions to withhold the financial assistance until Secretary of State John Kerry certifies that Pakistan "is not supporting terrorist activities against U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes."

It also called for Pakistan's cooperation with the U.S. "in counterterrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura, Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organizations, including" [preventing] them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighboring countries."

The bill's provision relating to Dr. Afridi specifically notes, "Of the funds" made available for assistance for Pakistan, $33 million shall be withheld from obligation until the Secretary of State reports to the Committees on Appropriations that Dr. Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges relating to the assistance provided to the U.S. in locating Osama bin Laden."

In June 2012, US Senator Rand Paul introduced a legislation in the Senate which seeks to eliminate aid to Pakistan until the conviction of Dr. Shakil Afridi is overturned and he is released.

Paul has submitted another bill which seeks to grant Afridi US citizenship for his efforts in leading the United States to Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad.

Sentor Paul also wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, urging a delay in the release of foreign military financing to the government of Pakistan, and to hold all aid until Dr. Afridi is released.

In 2012 also, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher introduced legislation in US Congress to award Dr. Afridi the Congressional Gold Medal "befitting his status as a genuine hero."

In October last, President Obama and Chairman of the US Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, during their meetings with the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif   demanded the release Dr Shakeel Afridi.

At one time it was also suggested in Pakistani media that Dr. Afridi may be swapped with Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani   who was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a US court on charges of trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Dr Afridi had helped the CIA by running a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad a month before the US forces raid on Osama bin Laden compound in 2011. The then-US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Afridi had worked for US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify bin Laden's presence.

Dr Afridi was arrested shortly after US troops attacked Abbottabad compound on May 2, 2011 and in October a Pakistani commission recommended that he be tried for treason.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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