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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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Arthur Scott

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September 2, 2012

Pakistan rules out handing over Dr Shakeel Afridi to US

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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 on August 31, 2012  “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.

Pakistan forms a high-level committee to look into Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s case

On August 28, 2012, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, constituted a four-member committee headed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to look into the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui who is serving 86 years imprisonment in US on charges of trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The premier formed the committee in a meeting with William Ramsey Clark, former attorney general of United States, and Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr Aafia, who called on him at the Prime Minister’s House. Other members of the committee include ministers for law, interior and human rights.

Talking to media on arrival at Islamabad airport Clarke said that Aafia Siddiqui’s trial was not correct. Aafia is a mother and a daughter, and justice demands that Aafia Siddiqui should immediately be released, he said, adding that Pakistan should raise this issue. He suggested that the US should tell where the son of Aafia is.

He also urged the public to stand up against the injustices being done to the Aafia and press on the Pakistani government to act. “We should speak clearly and honestly against her imprisonment. We are living in world of danger and we must have courage to fight and argue against the injustices being meted to Dr Aafia Siddiqui… If there would be no rule of law there would not be any peace,” he opined.

Later addressing a seminar in Karachi, Ramsey Clarke stated that the imprisonment of Dr Aafia Siddiqui is an unjustified act.  He said that the relations between Pakistan and United States would strengthen after the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui. “Dr Aafia Siddiqui was victimised by the international politics being played for power. I haven’t witnessed such bare injustice in my entire career,” Clark said.

On September 23, 2010, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated cognitive neuroscientist was sentenced to 86 years in prison for trying to kill U.S. agents and military officers in Afghanistan on July 28, 2008. Earlier, on February 3, 2010, a jury in New York found Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, guilty of attempted murder charges on all seven counts listed in the complaint against her.

According to the prosecution, Dr. Siddiqui grabbed a US warrant officer's rifle while she was detained for questioning in July 2008 at a police station in Ghazni and fired at FBI agents and military personnel as she was pushed down to the ground. None of the US soldiers or FBI agents was injured, but Dr.Siddiqui was shot. She was charged with attempted murder and assault and other crimes.

To borrow Stephen Lendman, "her trial was a travesty of justice based on the preposterous charge that in the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, she (110 pounds and frail) assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she was severely wounded. No credible evidence was presented. Some was kept secret. The proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were either enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bought off to cooperate, then jurors were intimidated to convict her."

According to prosecution Siddiqui was arrested by the Afghan police in the town of Ghazni with notes indicating plans to attack the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks. However, she was not charged with terrorism but charged only with attempted murder.

During the trial, the prosecution admitted that
there were no fingerprints on the gun she was supposed to have wrested from one of the soldiers. No bullets were recovered from the cell.

Early in the case Siddiqui's defense team suggested she was a victim of the "dark side," picked up by Pakistani or U.S. intelligence, but prosecutors insisted they found no evidence she'd ever been illegally detained. By the time of the trial, no mention was made of Siddiqui's whereabouts during her five missing years.

No explanation was given as to why a would-be terrorist would wander around openly with a slew of almost theatrically incriminating materials in her possession.

No questions were raised about the whereabouts of her two missing children, one of whom is a U.S. citizen. (Her daughter Maryam and son Ahmed later recovered from Afghanistan and handed over to Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui.)

By keeping the focus on Ghazni, the prosecution avoided the main issue in Dr. Aafia's case: Where was she from March 2003 to July 2008 when she suddenly appeared in US custody in Afghanistan.

In a new twist to Dr. Aafia’s saga, on January 23, 2012, Khurshid Kasuri, former foreign minister of Pakistan under General Musharraf, admitted handing over Dr. Aafia to the US and expressed his regret. In a twitter message he said: “I’m so sorry for handing over the innocent Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to the Americans. It was my biggest mistake ever. Khurshid Kasuri.”

Tellingly, General Musharraf admits in his book (In the Line of Fire, page 237) that his government captured and handed over 369 ‘al Qaeda militants’ to the US. He also writes that Pakistanis received ‘millions of dollars’ as prize money from the CIA for capturing those militants.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the chief editor of the Journal of America.