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Pakistan rules out handing over Dr Shakeel Afridi to US

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No proposal is under consideration to hand over Dr Shakeel Afridi, who helped CIA in Osama Ben Laden compound raid in May 2011, to the United States, says chief of Pakistan's spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). 

The ISI Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam said in Islamabad Friday  "US should forget the matter of Dr Afridi for at least 10 years."

He also said that no proposal is under review for the swap of Dr Afridi with Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving 86 year jail sentence in US for allegedly attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Gen Zaheerul Islam was commenting on the suggestions by the Free Aafia Movement that she may be swapped with Dr. Afridi.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's leading newspaper, The News, quoted the US Embassy spokeswoman, Ms Rian Harris, as saying that the United States was not considering a prisoner exchange involving Dr Aafia Siddiqui and Dr Shakeel Afridi.

Dr. Afridi was picked up by the ISI from Pakistan-Afghanistan border, two weeks after the US operation in the OBL's compound in Abbottabad. Pakistani officials said that Afridi had accepted helping the CIA by running a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad a month before the raid on the OBL's compound.

Dr. Afridi, now 48, was recruited by the CIA some years ago, according to several U.S. and Pakistani officials. One Pakistani intelligence source said he was talent-spotted while working in an Afghan refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar in 2009 and used to gather intelligence on militants in the border area.

Later, he was asked to scout bin Laden's compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, under the cloak of an anti-hepatitis campaign. U.S. officials say Afridi provided important information on activity at the compound.

He was arrested from Torkham border while trying to escape to Afghanistan days after the raid. On 23 May 2012, Shakil Afridi was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment, initially believed to be in connection with the Bin Laden raid but later revealed to be due to ties with a local warlord Mangal Bagh who commands an armed group known as Lashkar-e-Islam.  

Papers released by the tribal court that sentenced Afridi said he had been found guilty of aiding the group, and not for treason for his role in helping the CIA.

Laskhar-e-Islam acknowledged that its fighters kidnapped Afridi for several days in April 2008 to investigate the allegations of his medical malpractice made by locals. "He was not a surgeon but conducted surgeries and deprived many people of their body organs," said Abdur Rashid Lashkari, spokesman for Lashkar-e-Islam.

His brother Jamil Afridi said he had been forced to pay a one million rupee (now about $10,650) ransom to Lashkar-e-Islam to secure his release and rejected the allegations that his brother had performed improper surgeries.

In February this year, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher submitted a bill to grant US citizenship to Dr. Afridi. The bill called for Dr Afridi to be deemed "a naturalized citizen of the United States."

In his speech in Congress, Rohrabacher, who is also the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight, said, "Pakistan's Inquiry Commission on the Abbottabad Operation, the US mission which killed bin Laden, has recommended that Dr Afridi be tried for treason for helping the US. If convicted, he could be executed. My bill would grant him US citizenship and send a direct and powerful message to those in the Pakistani government and military who protected the mastermind of 9/11 for all those years and who are now seeking retribution on those who helped to execute bin Laden."

"This bill shows the world that America does not abandon its friends," he said adding that 21 members of Congress had endorsed the bill as well.

The day after Afridi was sentenced, the US Senate expressed its anger by voting to dock Islamabad $33 million in aid - $1 million for every year of the term.

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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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