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The oddity of Dr. Skhail Afridi case

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Message Roohul Amin

Since the day Dr. Shakil Afridi has been sentenced to 33-year imprisonment by Pakistan, the issue is making headlines, globally. It has sparked a debate that whether he is traitor or hero and how Pakistan should have dealt him? Dr. Afridi is the man who ran a vaccination drive to collect DNA samples of Osama bin Laden's family at the behest of the American intelligence agency, CIA. Nevertheless he was sentenced 33-year prison by the Political Administration of Khyber Agency. 

It is for colluding with Americans in locating the world most dangerous man and America's enemy number one, Osama bin Laden (OBL). He was sentenced under the draconian law of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), the brainchild of Lord Curzon, imposed in 1901 in the tribal belt when it was part of the British India. This very blackest law allows collective punishment for the crime of a single man. When a man commits some offense, not only the offender but also his family, his sub-tribe, tribe and even in certain cases his entire clan is accountable for his act before the Political Administration. 

Under FCR, a Political Agent is all powerful, and he is the personification of the three institutions of the state: executive, legislature and judiciary.   That's why he can issue arrest warrant of any tribesman without any reason and can release a serious offender sometimes, he is not accountable to anyway except to FATA Secretary. But since a FATA Secretary is promoted from among the Political Agents of the seven tribal agencies that' why he is no difference. Now the case of Dr. Afridi is complicated as well as easy to solve. It is up to FATA Secretariat and Political Administration of his respective tribal agency whether to stand firmly on the verdict of the 33-year imprisonment or to write it off as null and void. Though FCR is not the main subject of my discussion, yet I have to discuss it briefly as I thought that it has some relevance to the case of Dr. Afridi.

Intel: Taliban after Dr Afridi blood
Intel: Taliban after Dr Afridi blood
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Intel: Taliban after Dr Afridi blood by

The FCR will remain a blot on the forehead of Pakistan as the blackest law is still intact despite the departure of the British from the region. Dr. Afridi who belongs to the Malakdin Khel tribe and Kulakhel sub-tribe of Afridi clan basically hails from Tirah Valley, where his relatives are in fight against Mangal Bagh, the Chief of Lashkar-e-Islam, a Bara-based militant faction. Unlike his kiths and kin, Dr. Afridi stood out to be totally different than them and he hated terrorism from the core of heart. Which is why he was kidnapped by militants of Lashkar-e-Islam and he was released when his family paid the militants a heavy ransom. 

I think the incident should have left some marks on the mindset of Dr. Afridi; that's why he should have decided to help America in locating the main head of terrorism in Pakistan. Since the world longest manhunt took place in Abbottabad, he should have been trialed in Peshawar High Court as the garrison city comes under the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court and not the FATA Political Administration.

OBL lived in peace and safety in Pakistan for many years and that's too in the close vicinity of Pakistan military academy Kakool, and yet, the only person to have been punished for that so far is the man who helped locate him. The government of Pakistan and its army did not come into move against anyone else especially against those in the government's intelligence or law-enforcement apparatus. Before arresting him the government should have arrested other people as well for these three reasons: the one is that how American helicopters intruded so deep inside Pakistani territory, while the second one is how OBL managed to live in Pakistan, purportedly undetected, and the third one is that he couldn't have lived for so many years without the covert support of someone from Pakistan's intelligence agency or other security organs. 

By trying Dr. Afridi in Khyber Agency, the government of Pakistan actually wanted to divest him of the right of appeal and lawyer as a Political Agent of a tribal agency is three-in-one. That's why Article 247 of the Constitution of Pakistan bars the High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan from jurisdiction on the case of Dr. Afridi. Another twist in his case came when Earlier, FATA Lawyers Forum defied to extend any legal support to Afridi. Earlier the forum has announced its support but insiders say that when the FATA lawyers came under pressure from Pakistan's ISI, they recanted their earlier decision.  

Besides that it is not the first ever instance where a Pakistani came to support Americans in its fight against terrorism rather General Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan, had handed over more or less 400 top al-Qaeda affiliates including some influential leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was arrested from Lahore, Pakistan. But the matter is that the United States should seriously take the issue and should work harder to release this man of iron. Since the US has succeeded in releasing Ramond Davis, who had allegedly killed three Pakistan citizens in Lahore then why it cannot break the shell of Dr. Afridi case.

The whole matter manifests one thing and that's the ill-intentions of Pakistan and its duplicitous alliance with the United States in the war on terror. The only crime Dr. Afridi committed in the eyes of Pakistan is why he colluded with CIA and instead of this he should have informed Pakistan about his presence. What a sheer joke it is. Had he informed the Pakistani government, and it would have tipped off OBL about the likely raid and he would have escaped to another safe and covert location. The ire of Pakistan is not that the Dr. violated laws of the land rather he deprived Pakistan of such a great and invaluable strategic asset. 

When Pakistan has already handed over scores of al-Qaeda leaders especially during the regime of Musharraf, then what should be the fate of Pervez Musharraf and those who supported him in this act? And when Musharraf has handed Sheikh Omar Khalid, who was arrested from Lahore, then it is no offense if a doctor helps Americans in locating world's dangerous man. Besides that the case of Dr. Afridi also reveals another story and that is the weak posture of the United States regarding the case. The US should have immediately taken Dr. Afridi and his family to Washington DC instead of leaving him behind in the tribal agency of Khyber. 

Since the detention of Dr. Afridi, his wife Imrana Afridi, two sons Junaid Afridi and Ayaz Afridi, and his daughter Nazish Afridi have escaped. According to a dominant belief they have left Peshawar for Tirah Valley, where it is hard enough for the Political Administration to arrest them as the valley is infested with local militants belonging to Karnakhel and Kulakhel Afridis. According to latest updates a strict ban was imposed on visiting Mr. Afridi in Peshawar Central Prison as he was detained in cell-16 of the prison; however he was shifted to Qila Balahisar for security reasons as few stranger foreigners attempted to meet Shakil Afridi in person. It is said that his health is falling rapidly. The entire story of Dr. Afridi is peculiar, for he was trialed in a tribal court under the auspices of Political Agent Khyber Agency wherefrom he was sent to Peshawar Central Jail and wherefrom he was shifted to Qila Balahisar. 

The Qila (fort) is under the control of Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force. It shows that Pakistan army is behind the case. Albeit by this fiasco, Pakistan has given the impression to the rest of the world that it has never been serious about fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And instead of considering the end of OBL as good riddance, Pakistan came to take it against its interests. How Dr. Afridi is handled and treated in Pakistan, it speaks volumes of the fact that the friends of OBL are the heroes and well protected in Pakistan while his enemies are the bad guys and will meet the fate of Dr. Afridi. 

After observing the developments on Dr. Afridi, the United States not only should put its efforts behind him for his release but also opened its gates for his tribesmen, so that American can produce Shakils in hundreds as he stands as an epitome of anti-terrorism. The educated youth of FATA should get US scholarships; it will have far-reaching results in fighting militancy and envisioning the tribesmen, who have been badly used by Pakistani security establishment as militants. 

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The writer is a Kabul-based journalist and contributes articles to English dailies in Kabul and Peshawar.
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