‘Scapegoat’: The lonely lifetime of physician who helped pinpoint Osama bin Laden

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

File picture: Folks collect outdoors the hideout of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden following his demise by US Particular Forces in a floor operation in Abbottabad.

ISLAMABAD: Dismissed as a traitor in Pakistan however lauded as a hero by the USA, Shakeel Afridi is paying a heavy worth for his function in bringing an finish to Osama bin Laden.
A decade after the al-Qaida chief was gunned down by a staff of Navy Seals, there is no such thing as a signal the physician will likely be exonerated by Pakistan authorities for serving to the CIA pinpoint Laden’s location below the cloak of working a vaccination programme.
Locked up in solitary confinement in Sahiwal Jail in Pakistan’s central Punjab province, Afridi now spends his time counting the times — with nothing to distinguish between them.
“He’s being saved in jail now solely to show each Pakistani a lesson to not cooperate with a western intelligence company,” Husain Haqqani, who was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington on the time of the raid, informed AFP.
“As a substitute of coming clear on bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, the authorities have made Dr Afridi a scapegoat.”
AFP pieced collectively the day by day routine of the physician via interviews together with his brother and lawyer, as Afridi is barred from talking to anybody other than his household or authorized staff.
For train, he paces round his seven by eight foot cell and does occasional push-ups, based on his household.
He has a duplicate of the Koran, however isn’t allowed different books.
A few instances per week he shaves within the presence of a guard, however contact with different inmates can be strictly prohibited.
Members of the family can go to simply twice a month, however are separated by an iron grate and forbidden from conversing of their native Pashto tongue.
“The jail authorities have informed us that we won’t talk about politics or discuss in regards to the scenario contained in the jail,” mentioned the brother.
Hailing from Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas, the doctor gave the impression to be a super asset for the CIA because the spy company zeroed in on Bin Laden’s hideout within the metropolis of Abbottabad.
All of the Individuals wanted was a little bit of proof that bin Laden was there, so they’d Afridi launch a vaccine marketing campaign with the goal of extracting a DNA pattern from inside his compound.
Simply how instrumental Afridi was in figuring out the al-Qaida boss is unclear, however the physician was arrested by authorities weeks after the lethal assault on bin Laden’s residence.
He was by no means discovered responsible of something linked to the raid, however convicted by a tribal court docket below an obscure colonial period regulation of offering cash to an rebel group and handed a 33-year sentence.
Successive US administrations have protested towards his continued imprisonment — and over time there was discuss of a prisoner alternate — however a deal to free Afridi has by no means materialised.
“Let’s be clear: Afridi has paid the best worth,” mentioned Michael Kugelman, deputy South Asia director on the Wilson Middle in Washington.
“He turned the autumn man.”
The 10-year anniversary of the bin Laden raid comes simply weeks after President Joe Biden introduced that the US’s lengthy struggle in Afghanistan could be coming to an finish.
In an deal with to the nation, Biden citied the killing of bin Laden as proof that US forces had way back completed their preliminary aims for invading Afghanistan.
Unsurprisingly, the president made no point out of Afridi.
“The withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the downgrading of ties with Pakistan that this might entail, means that Afridi will not be the recent button concern that it has been previously,” mentioned Kugelman.
Few are sympathetic to Afridi’s ongoing plight in Pakistan, the place the bin Laden raid fanned anti-American sentiment after years of simmering mistrust between the uneasy allies.
“Each time somebody works for a international intelligence company it is one of the crucial unforgivable crimes,” Asad Durrani, the previous head of Pakistan’s formidable spy company, informed AFP, saying that Afridi’s arrest in all probability saved the physician from being lynched.
However even because the US prepares to exit Afghanistan and recollections of the bin Laden saga fade, Afridi’s legacy continues to reverberate in Pakistan.
Religion in vaccine campaigns has been significantly undercut by the ruse, with households routinely refusing to have their youngsters inoculated for curable ailments reminiscent of polio.
Insurgents have additionally attacked vaccine groups, with dozens of well being employees gunned down previously decade.
In the meantime in jail, Afridi stays largely reduce off from the skin world and passes his time pacing his cell and reciting day by day prayers.
“He’s not allowed to make use of a cell, learn a newspaper or a e-book,” mentioned his brother Jamil Afridi.
“He lives in isolation.”

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