Pakistani doctor who helped find bin Laden still languishing in jail

doctor Shakeel Afridi
Five years after Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi (C) helped the CIA track and kill Osama bin Laden, he is still in jail and Pakistan refuses to release him despite US pressure

Five years after Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA track and kill Osama bin Laden, his supporters say US authorities have left him to languish in jail in a bid to smooth troubled relations with Islamabad.

Afridi, believed to be in his mid-50s, has no access to a lawyer, and his appeal against a 23-year prison sentence for aiding the US operation has stalled.

“I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” his elder brother Jamil told AFP.

The former senior surgeon lives in solitary confinement in a small room, according to his lawyer, able to see his immediate family no more than six times a year.

Afridi’s role in one of the most famous assassinations of recent decades is murky.

Details of how he was sought out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are unclear – Pakistani reports suggest officials at Save the Children acted as go-betweens, though the charity denies involvement.

What is known is that Afridi’s job was to run a fake Hepatitis C vaccination programme with the aim of obtaining genetic samples from Abbottabad, a garrison city and home to the Pakistan Military Academy.

It was there that al Qaeda chief bin Laden and his family had set up home in the mid-2000s, under the noses – and some say protection – of senior Pakistani military officers.

Deadly raid

In the darkness of May 2, 2011, two helicopters carrying elite Navy Seals touched down inside the compound.

In a dramatic raid just one kilometre from the military academy, they fought their way in and surprised the terror mastermind.

They shot him in the head and fled with his body, abandoning a damaged Black Hawk helicopter.

The killing was a huge success for US President Barack Obama, whose country was profoundly scarred by the attacks on New York and Washington of September 2001.

It decapitated al Qaeda, badly hampering the organisation’s ability to carry out further atrocities.

But it drove a wedge between Islamabad and Washington, with lingering suspicions that the Pakistanis had for years been covering up the whereabouts of one of the world’s most wanted men.

Weeks after the raid, Afridi was arrested and thrown in jail, accused of having ties to militants, a charge he has always denied.

Commentators believe Pakistan opted to punish Afridi in this way, rather than try him for treason, because that would have entailed a public trial that would have thrown a spotlight on Islamabad’s role in harbouring bin Laden.

A furious US senate committee voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million – $1 million for each year of his original sentence.

The sentence was later cut by 10 years.

But since then, US pressure for Afridi’s release has tapered off, and analysts say Washington has dropped the issue, preferring to concentrate on what it sees as more pressing matters – such as negotiating with Islamist extremists in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban talks have taken priority over everything. The Americans don’t want to muddy the water by raising other issues that are contentious,” says Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani author and security expert.

Trump rebuked

Qamar Nadeem, Afridi’s lawyer who has been denied access to him for the past two years, believes his client’s best hope for early release is US pressure, “But so far they have not shown their support,” he says.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, claimed in an interview last week that if he became president he would get Pakistani authorities to release Afridi “in two minutes”.

“I would tell them, let [Afridi] out and I’m sure they would let [him] out. Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan,” Trump told Fox News on Friday, adding that Pakistan “takes advantage like everybody else”.

His comments drew an angry rebuke from Pakistan’s interior minister on Monday. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the “government of Pakistan and not Donald Trump” would decide Afridi’s fate.

“Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” he retorted, adding that Trump’s comments “serve to show not only his insensitivity but also his ignorance about Pakistan”.

Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington said all hope is not lost for Afridi.

He said, rather than having abandoned him, the Americans may have decided that shouting about it is not going to work.

“In Washington the issue has likely moved off the front burner because it’s clear that Pakistan isn’t willing to play ball and negotiate an arrangement that could set him free,” he said.

“(But) the Afridi issue has never really gone away, and my sense is that US officials quietly press Pakistan about it from time to time.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



17 responses to “Pakistani doctor who helped find bin Laden still languishing in jail”

  1. 5thDrawer Avatar

    Again a Failure of the CIA. Should have got him and all his family out to safety along with Bin Laden’s body.

  2. A country’s resident that turns out to be secretly working as a foreign agent is committing a crime no matter which country you talk about. Especially when the agent is abusing the trust of his patients to collect information for an enemy country that is bombing them. Because of this agent, many parents in Pakistan have refused to let their children take vaccines out of fear that the doctor is working as a foreign spy. This has resulted in the reintroduction of the polio virus in the south asia, reversing decadeds of vaccine work.

    As for the alleged Osama take down, if that was really him, they would not have executed him on the spot and they certainly would not hide his body in the deepest ocean. Not to mention, no building in history has ever crumbled from top to bottom due to a fire.

    1. man-o-war Avatar

      “many parents in Pakistan have refused to let their children take vaccines out of fear that the doctor is working as a foreign spy”, the ignorance in this statement is appalling

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Similar idiots exist against any vaccines in ‘the west’ too … even for flu shots.
          The ignorance he talks about is of the superstitions, which even gave us gods; and then forwarded to the ‘fear’ that ANY ‘official’ is trying to fake them out somehow because of one isolated incident.
          How many people take the vaccines RECOMMENDED to visit ‘Foreign Lands’ BEFORE they go there and get the disease? Ignorance is such bliss.
          If it’s not PAID FOR by someone else, they usually won’t, EVEN IF they bothered to check first with a certified clinic which exists for the purpose.
          THINKING THAT A FREE POLIO SHOT is more dangerous than being a terrorist is utterly ignorant stupidity … even IF you are going to raise your kid to be a terrorist. After all, he could live long enough to get shot, or to blow himself and other people’s kids up.

        2. man-o-war Avatar

          You have no place to talk about ignorance, you should turn that attention towards the ignorant Pakistani parents that are willing to let their children die because the doctor may be working as a spy. Even if this doctor was working with the CIA he was still providing much needed vaccines.

          If you didn’t notice, the doctor was working to help find a mass murdering terrorist that was being sheltered by the Pakistani government. At the same time he was providing a service to his people. The Pakistani parents should turn their anger and suspicion towards their corrupt government that would hide and protect a terrorist.

          1. With every post your only displaying how ignorant you are of the report. If you actually read it, the doctor says he had no idea he was supposed to be tracking down someone. All he knew is that he was working for a foreign government to collect the DNA data of people living in his neighborhood by tricking them into believing he was just supplying them vaccines. By any standard of any country in the world, that’s a case for treason. Pakistan has lost over 5 thousand soldiers and tens of blllions of US dollars in economic damage by conducting a war against AlQaeda along the border thinking that the United States was an Allie. Instead of repaying Pakistan with any kind of thanks, Obama decided that he needed an Osama kill that gave all credit to his administration just before his relection campaign. The fact that it left their wounded allie looking like a enemy didn’t affect Washington at all. If that isnt treachery I dont know what is. It also explains why ever since the event USA’s allies in the middle east are joining Russia as fast as they can.

          2. 5thDrawer Avatar

            USA has stated many times it will will hunt down those it thinks ‘done them wrong’.
            Obama could scarcely go against ‘Policy’ … he just signs the ‘OK’ when they prove they have their man. How they get the info might be a little sneaky, as everyone is.

          3. First off, USA will always be hunting down those it perceives has done them wrong because it is in the business of bombing innocent people. So there’s always going to be this endless supply of people who want to get us back. Secondly, since the 1980s, USA has developed a habit of treating its non European “allies” as disposable cannon fodder like it has done with Pakistan in the Bin Laden raid. This is resulting in pushing away Muslim countries towards creating their own alliances like the Saudi-Turkey-Qatar bloc or at worst pushing them into the hands of Russia, Iran or ISIS. And the latter scenario is creating absolute chaos in the region because they are worse than even an alliance with the prickly US of A.

          4. 5thDrawer Avatar

            There I agree … and it’s all about ‘Business’. Money rules the world. Always.
            It’s the ‘sneaky business’ where the ‘Tops’ don’t tell us what they have ‘planned’ for us that ticks off everyone on the bottom of the scales. And trust me, they ALL have their ‘business’ going on. All the time. East & West just have different ways of going about that.

          5. man-o-war Avatar

            “Pakistan has lost over 5 thousand soldiers and tens of blllions of US dollars in economic damage by conducting a war against AlQaeda”, they shouldn’t need the US to tell them to go after a terrorist organization like the Pakistani taliban you moron. The Pakistani taliban kill hundreds and thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians every year. They bomb girls schools, and you sit here and try to act like they shouldn’t be targeted and attacked by every sane human on earth. Idiot!

            Pakistan is a backwards country and part of the reason is you and your likes indifference towards the terrorist Islamist running wild in the crap hole of a country. The government is corrupt as hell and have been taking billions in bribes from the US to combat terrorism while the sleazy slimy Pakistanis don’t actually do shit to combat terrorism. They instead hide and protect the most wanted terrorist in the world. Your just mad that a Pakistani doctor helped find the terrorist.

          6. “Pakistan is a backwards country…”
            You should have openly admitted your racism to begin so that people would not have to waste their time reading and replying to your comments.

          7. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Nothing to do with race … lack of a real education, first off. Like the needles thing.

          8. man-o-war Avatar

            “Pakistan is a backwards country” is fact, not racism. Do you know the definition of racism?

            Global Prosperity Index: Pakistan ranked 132 of 142 countries:

            “Safety and Security – 140 out of 142

            Only Chad and Congo could beat Pakistan in being the least secure places to live and work. Saudi Arabia was ranked 131.

            As expected, civil war casualties were high in Pakistan. Sixty percent of people said they did not feel safe walking alone at night, whereas around 10% said they had been assaulted or had their property stolen within the past 12 months.

            Personal Freedom – 135 out of 142

            Barring a handful of countries (such as Yemen, Sudan, Iraq and Egypt), the Index declared Pakistan to be among the worst countries in terms of personal freedom.

            Compared to over 70% in the world, only 36% people in Pakistan said they were satisfied with the freedom of choice available here. But compared to the world average (68%), a slightly higher number of people (70%) said the country was a good place for ethnic minorities to live in.”


          1. 5thDrawer Avatar

            As it says on the fact-sheet which comes in the packages, all vaccines have the potential to cause the disease they protect against. The numbers are usually described as 1 out of so many thousands or death-potential 1 out of millions.
            I’d think, Assuming the needle is put in properly, if 9 died from a needle, but 15 died from catching it anyway without the needle, the problem is more one of not having in place the means to treat the fever and effects of the disease itself.
            Perhaps 14 had it, but only 9 of those went for the needle.
            Most of us who got it naturally survived it with the proper care and a doctor’s advice to Mom … as he promptly stuck a ‘Quarantine’ sign on the house door until he came to check a week later.
            (Ohhh .. what happened to quarantining communicably sick people?? – THERE’s a story in itself for pages of blogging.)

  3. Rudy1947 Avatar

    Then again, the doctor may be safer in jail.

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