Dr. Shakil Afridi a test case
Dr. Shakil Afiridi was convicted on charges of treason for having accepted to work as a secret agent of CIA and for conducting an unauthorized fake polio vaccination campaign with a view to collecting DNA sample in a house in Abbottabad where CIA suspected Osama bin Laden (OBL) was living.
He was awarded 33 years’ imprisonment, which further exacerbated already strained Pak-US relations. US policy makers are resorting to coercive diplomacy against Pakistan, and have stepped up psychological campaign and are hurling threats of reducing or stoppage of aid to Pakistan. Dr. Afridi’s case has become a test case, as his conviction has sent the message to agents of aliens and palmed off media men loud and clear that they will be in the dock if they do not stop their anti-Pakistan activities. On the other hand, if the government buckles under pressure of the US to release Dr. Afridi, they would be emboldened to work with more ‘zeal’ to the detriment of national interest.
Immediately after the court sentenced Dr. Shakil Afridi, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that there was no basis for Dr. Afridi to be incarcerated. US Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher called it a “decisive proof that Pakistan sees itself as being at war with the US”. Two key US senators Carl Levin and John McCain in a joint statement said that Afridi’s sentence was “shocking and outrageous”, urging Pakistan to pardon Dr. Afridi along with the warning that the decision could put US assistance to Pakistan at risk. On the other hand, a US Senate Panel voted unanimously to cut aid to Pakistan by $ 33 million, or one million dollar for every year Dr. Shakil Afridi spends in prison. 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”. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to continue to press the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi with Islamabad, describing Pakistan’s jailing of Afridi for 33 years for helping the CIA find OBL, “unjust and unwarranted”.
Dr. Shakil Afridi’s case has become the most controversial issue generating national and international debate. US led media persons project him as a hero while patriots in Pakistan see him as a traitor who had become a secret agent of a foreign agency, for money. However, there are clear signs of division among Pakistani intellectuals and media persons; some analysts maintain that he did it for money, nevertheless for US he is the most important person who led them to find OBL. As reported in the press, the US has influenced selected media men, intellectuals and writers to seek support for its point of view. In this regard, anchorperson Dr. Danish, in his TV Talk Show ‘Swal Yeh Hey” telecast on ARY News on 27th May 2012, revealed that US has pumped in Rs.500 million for writers and media anchors for rejecting court verdict sentencing Dr Afridi.
Ever since US violated Pakistan’s sovereignty to kill OBL and launched aerial attacks on Salala Check-post it has initiated powerful propaganda campaign against Pakistan threatening economic sanctions and leveling serious allegations against Pakistan. The aim is to create fear in the minds of top leadership, media men and the masses. Pakistan’s Parliament, however, has taken a principled stance on opening of NATO supply lines, drone attacks and new terms of engagement for cooperation in GWOT. The people of Pakistan demand that decision taken by the Parliament must be respected. Since arrogant super power is using psychological pressure tactics, it is time for the leadership to show the strength of character and withstand all pressure tactics applied to wear them down. The more Pakistan presses its demands from a point of strength the more impact it will have on US policy makers. But all the organs of the state, political parties in the government or opposition and the media have to be on the same page to meet the threats or challenges facing the nation.
The CIA also breached the early agreement by concealing information from the ISI and tasking a Pakistani government official for a job, which they knew was illegal. There was no reason for the CIA to hide information about Osama bin Laden from the ISI, because Pakistan had arrested scores of Al Qaeda leaders and operatives who were handed over to the US. There was not a single instance of shared information being leaked and the target forewarned.
Having that said, the US administration is not justified in seeking Dr. Shakil Afridi’s release, because it would never like any US citizen to work for a foreign intelligence agency either. America has more often than not displayed double standards. Take the case of Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen, who worked as an American civilian intelligence analyst before being convicted of spying for Israel. He received a life sentence in 1987 and is still languishing in jail.
In June 1984, Pollard started passing classified information to Sella and received, in exchange, $10,000 cash and a very expensive diamond and sapphire ring, which Pollard later presented to his girlfriend Anne while proposing her for marriage. He was to receive $1,500 per month for further espionage. Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment on one count of espionage on March 4, 1987.
The prosecutor complied with the plea agreement and asked for “only a substantial number of years in prison.” Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr., who was not obligated to follow the recommendation of the prosecutor, awarded a life sentence after hearing a “damage-assessment memorandum” from the Secretary of Defense. If America can award life sentence to its traitors, why Pakistan cannot hand out similar sentence to its traitors?
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest and award of two years’ imprisonment on the charges of receiving funds from Pakistan is another case in point, though he was not indulging in any hostile activity against the United States. He was only campaigning, openly, for the legitimate right of self-determination of the Kashmiris; yet Dr. Fai was charged for allegedly being on the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI’s payrolls and working at its behest.
Having that said, Pakistan was deliberately sidelined by the CIA, and Pakistan was let down by its allies especially the US. Anchorperson Dr. Danish in his programme has revealed that a sum of Rs.50 crore has been distributed to the domestic print media in order to manage perception in favour of Dr. Shakil Afridi. Even in electronic media, quite a few analysts are advancing arguments to prove him innocent and criticizing Pakistan for indicting him at the behest of aliens.