Dr Shakil Afridi – a monstrous injustice
The doctor who assisted the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden has been convicted by a Khyber court in Pakistan of conspiring against the state, and duly sentenced to 33 years in prison (along with a fine of $3,500 or an additional 3½ years in prison if he doesn’t pay). Under 19th-century British colonial judicial provisions, Dr Afridi was not permitted legal representation. And neither was he permitted to present material evidence, nor to cross-examine witnesses against him. The verdict was handed down by a government official after consultation with a council of tribal elders.
This is a monstrous injustice.
Dr Afridi ran a bogus vaccination program for the CIA in order to locate and verify the bin Laden’s whereabouts, which led directly to the successful completion of the mission in Abbottabad last May when US Navy Seals shot dead the world’s most wanted man.
Pakistan's treatment of Dr Afridi is nothing to do with justice: it is political posturing against the United States and other Western nations. In Washington, Dr Afridi is a hero; in Islamabad, he is a traitor who collaborated with a foreign spy agency in an illegal operation. Apparently, he is permitted to appeal the verdict within two months, but if the Court of Star Chamber hears the case, the verdict is foregone.
Rather weakly, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has demanded Dr Afridi’s release. The EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has been mute. But that’s a blessing.
Pakistan receives about £13bn in aid every year. According to Imran Khan, it fuels corruption, and should cease. The UK has recently doubled its contribution to £350 million a year until 2015, making Pakistan the largest recipient of UK aid. The DfID persuade themselves this is spent on ‘education; women and children’s health; creating jobs and supporting economic growth; and strengthening democracy’. We all know it’s really spent on nuclear missiles.
So, instead of issuing vacuous memoranda, the US and UK should suspend their aid programmes with immediate effect. Pakistani authorities must appreciate that Dr Shakil Afridi was a true patriot who helped rid his country of an Al-Qaeda terrorist, a notorious Islamist jihadist and a mass murderer. Unless, of course, Imran Khan is right, and the whole system is so irredeemably corrupt that Pakistan would rather revert to the politics of the 7th century than enter the enlightenment of the 21st. Perhaps 19th-century colonial justice is a happy via media.