- POSTED: 23 Sep 2013 15:18
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Pakistani officials have overturned the prison sentence of Dr Shakil Afridi -- a man closely linked to the CIA tracking down Osama bin Laden's location. Afridi was facing a 33-year prison sentence for treason that was unrelated to the Osama incident, but a retrial is now in motion.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani officials have overturned the prison sentence of Dr Shakil Afridi -- a man closely linked to the CIA tracking down Osama bin Laden's location. Afridi was facing a 33-year prison sentence for treason that was unrelated to the Osama incident, but a retrial is now in motion.
Dr Shakil Afridi had helped the CIA launch a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to secure DNA samples and ascertain Osama bin Laden's presence in the city.
Soon after that, the US sent in a team of Navy SEALs to take out the Al Qaeda chief.
According to preliminary reports, the doctor knew "that he was working against Pakistan".
However, instead of being charged with colluding with a foreign intelligence agency, Afridi was tried under Frontier Crimes Regulations and sentenced to prison for maintaining close links with a militant organization -- the banned militant outfit Lashkar-i-Islam.
Frontier Crimes Regulations are British-era laws that apply only to the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Pakistani government has not repealed this law and it is not viewed favorably by its people.
Sib Kaifee, a political analyst, said: "We now look at it as a draconian law or a 'black law'. It is a law in which one man has the power of judge, jury and executioner... It would be easier (for the government) to take out Dr Shakil Afridi from the tribal court system than from the normal judicial system of Pakistan."
Pakistani officials, citing technical grounds, overturned Dr Shakil Afridi's 33-year jail sentence and Afridi's retrial is likely to take place soon.
Some political observers said this latest development might be due to intense American pressure on Islamabad to release the doctor, who is widely viewed as a hero in the United States. Others claim the turn of events is linked to another case involving Dr Aafia Siddiqui -- a Pakistani neuroscientist who has been sentenced by a US court to an 86-year jail sentence on terrorism charges.
Word is, officials in Islamabad are keen to bring Dr Aafia Siddiqui home and may even be willing to exchange Afridi for her.
Observers believe the exchange may take place under a Council of European Convention on the transfer of prisoners -- a convention, media reports said, that Pakistan intends to sign. However, experts believe otherwise.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a former federal law minister, said: "This convention has been under consideration for the last few years. Its primary motive was to repatriate Dr Aafia Siddiqui. This is a multilateral instrument and the idea of this treaty is that when foreigners are sentenced in your country, they could be repatriated back to complete their sentence.
"I don't think that this convention benefits Dr Shakil Afridi because Afridi is obviously a Pakistani national."
For most people in this country, Dr Shakil Afridi is a shady character who helped the US breach Pakistan's sovereignty. It can therefore be politically costly for this government to give him a clean sheet and let him fly to the US.
But that is not all -- Afridi's trial is expected to take place under the same tribal judicial system and if this is the case, one cannot rule out the strong possibility that the proceedings could lead to the same verdict for Afridi.