AFRIDI BEHIND THE BARS?
My younger son was depressingly disappointed when one day he was reading a headline in a western newspaper, ‘Afridi Behind the Bars’. In a very dismal tone he said to me, “Baba! These western newspapers are simply damaging the repute of our national hero Shahid Afridi by such misguiding headlines.” I said, “Don’t take it so serious; it might be a printing mistake.” The history of Pakistan would always remember two Afridis, Shahid Afridi and Dr. Shakeel Afridi, no doubt, two extreme contradictions to each other. Shahid Afridi would always be remembered as a beacon of success and achievement embellished with the ornaments of patriotism and loyalty to the motherland but Dr. Afridi with so many suspicions and doubts. Whether Dr. Shakeel Afridi played a plausible role in the global war on terror or made him ‘immortal’ as a traitor in the history of Pakistan; certainly very difficult to be decided at this stage; but one thing must be kept in mind that his punishment of 33 years imprisonment has nothing to do with the Abbotabad Operation. Nasir Khan, the Assistant Political Agent Bara sentenced Dr. Afridi to 33 years imprisonment in accordance with the provision of Frontier Crimes Regulation and the tribal traditions on allegations of his involvement in anti state activities. The punishment is based on his close association and terrorism based linkages with a terrorist organization which is active in Bara and Tirah Valley of Khaiber Pakhtunkhawh. God knows better why our American friends are taking the trial and punishment of Dr. Afridi so much personal. The government of Pakistan has yet not done any thing regarding his involvement in the murder of Bin Laden and his so-called co-operation with the CIA and the US authorities. Since he was a government servant and according to the rules and regulations no government servant is allowed to develop his personal relationship with a foreign government; doing so is a crime. Certainly the government of Pakistan must be thinking of taking action against him on these grounds at some later stage.
Apart from the actual facts and figures, Dr Afridi’s case has generated a never ending discussion at national and international level in a very controversial manner. The patriots in Pakistan see him as a traitor who had become a secret agent of a foreign agency, for money whereas US patronized media persons project him as a hero. Here the most important thing is that the face of actualities must not be deformed in heat and haste. At present, Dr. Afridi must not be discussed as a traitor or a hero. He is simply a criminal who has been penalized by a court for his linkage and association with a terrorist organization which is involved in anti- state activities. Let the government take the matter of his affiliation with the CIA regarding the Abbotabad Operation into consideration and let the court decide his status; only after that it would be fair to call Dr. Afridi a traitor or a hero.
It is something very interesting that people did not know even the name of Dr. Shakeel Afridi even one year after the Abbotabad Operation. It was 23rd of May 2012 when the court of the Assistant Political Agent Bara sentenced 33 years imprisonment to Dr. Afridi, the name of this doctor came to the knowledge of common people of Pakistan but they did not take him very serious. According to the common opinion Dr. Afridi was a criminal and the court put him behind the bars. But just after 23rd of May, there came a hurricane of blames and allegations against the law enforcement agencies and the government of Pakistan in the western media. CIA sponsored American writers, TV anchors, analysts and even the men in congress started maligning the image of Pakistan by drawing a false picture of the situation. They devoted all their zeal and zest to prove that Dr. Afridi was penalized not for his association with a terrorist organization but for his co-operation with the CIA in the Abbotabad operation.
US Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said in his very bitter remarks on Dr. Afridi’s punishment, “It is a decisive proof that Pakistan sees itself as being at war with the US”. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was of the opinion that there was no basis for Dr Afridi to be held. US senators Carl Levin and John McCain jointly stated that Afridi’s sentence was ‘shocking and outrageous’. They warned Pakistan that the decision could put US assistance to Pakistan at risk in case Dr Afridi is not granted pardon. Criticizing Pakistan’s sentencing to Dr Shakeel Afridi US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said, “It is so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist of our time”. Why they all are in a state of pain and agony over the court’s verdict on Dr. Afridi. What else must Pakistan do with a person who is joining hands with the anti-state elements? What could have been the action or reaction of the US authorities if someone like Dr. Afridi was caught there red-handed?
Dr. Afridi is reaping for what he had sown. He was causing damage to the very foundation of Pakistan by joining hands with the terrorists that is why he is sent behind the bars. The matter has nothing to do with the US. All this US’ hue and cry over his imprisonment is baseless, futile and against the diplomatic norms and traditions. America is a very old chum of Pakistan and Pakistan is no doubt a frontline ally in the US war on terror. The action taken against Dr. Afridi is also a serious and sincere effort to crush terrorism, the terrorists and their companions. Instead of linking financial support with the release of Dr. Afridi or rebuking to slash economic aid of Pakistan, US must encourage and appreciate Pakistan’s standpoint in Dr. Afridi’s case.