Pakistani Doctor That Allegedly Aided CIA Hunt For Osama Bin Laden ‘Might Be Released Very Soon’
Shakil Afridi has languished in prison since shortly after former Al Qa’ida leader and terrorist mastermind was killed in 2011 U.S. raid
Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who was arrested for helping the United States track down Osama bin Laden, may be released soon, according to intelligence sources. The speculation arose after Afridi was relocated to another prison, in what was construed as a possible sign Islamabad may be preparing to set him free. Afridi allegedly ran a fake vaccine program that helped the CIA pinpoint the location of the former Al Qa’ida leader’s secret compound in the city of Abbottabad. Based on information Afridi purportedly provided, then-U.S. president Barack Obama green-lighted a covert assault on the target, during which bin Laden was killed.
However, Afridi was not charged for his involvement in the supposed CIA scheme, but, rather, was sentenced for offering money and medical treatment to terrorist organizations in Khyber Agency, part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. For his alleged “anti-state” crimes—which some suspect Afridi was framed for in revenge for his role in eliminating bin Laden—he received 33 years in prison.
In recent days, his relocation from Central Prison Peshawar to the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, a move claimed to have been undertaken out of concern for Afridi’s safety, sparked rumors of his imminent release.
Nadeem Qamar, Afridi’s lawyer, spoke exclusively with The Media Line about the prospect, explaining that one tangible sign of his client’s potential release is the recent reduction of Afridi’s sentence. He noted that given the amount of time already served, Afridi should be freed in June.
Qamar also denied rumors that the CIA was planning an operation to free him from the Peshawar jail. “That prison is one of the safest in the country,” he stressed. “It is located in the center of a garrison area. It is out of the question that any agency could plan a prison break given the compound’s tight security.”
A team of expert doctors at Afridi’s new location reportedly declared him completely fit. Sources at the jail who requested anonymity told The Media Line that the primary physician has been kept under tight security with additional guards posted to his barracks.
If Afridi is released, Qamar concluded, “there is a good chance he would settle permanently in the U.S.”
According to Reuters, Afridi’s wife and children have been moved to a secret site over fear of possible reprisals by the Taliban. Qamar and other members of Afridi’s legal team have reported receiving death threats from the terrorist group. Samiullah Afridi, a relative of Shakil’s, was killed in 2015 by unknown assailants in Peshawar.
A security official who asked not to be named told The Media Line that Jamatul Ahrar, a Taliban splinter group, claimed responsibility for the murder.
Afridi’s imprisonment has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump told Fox News that he “would get him [Afridi] out in two minutes…because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan.”
Pakistani officials at the time condemned Trump’s remarks, with Interior Minister Chaudhry firing back that “Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America” and, as such, Afridi’s fate would be decided by Islamabad alone.
According to reports, a U.S. Senate panel has since cut $33 million in aid to Pakistan over Afridi’s conviction, the equivalent of $1 million for each of the 33 years of his original sentence.
U.S. authorities said that before his arrest, Afridi turned down an opportunity to leave Pakistan and resettle overseas with his family. Then, in September 2012, the U.S. State Department revealed that it would consider a prisoner-exchange deal that included Afridi, however, Pakistan reportedly rebuffed the idea.
While President Trump and other American officials consider Afridi a hero, Pakistan’s top brass sees him as a traitor who deserves many more years behind bars.
Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rejected the notion the government would release Afridi into American custody. “I can assure you that he is not being handed over to the U.S.,” he recently affirmed.
Faisal insisted that Pakistani authorities were not planning to swap Afridi for Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently jailed in the U.S. for attempting to kill American military officers in Afghanistan.