US confirms receiving details of charges against Dr Afridi


US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has acknowledged that Pakistani authorities had forwarded some details of Shakil Afridi’s case to the US.
In an earlier briefing last week, Toner said that the US had sought clarification from Pakistan on charges against Dr Afridi, who worked for the CIA to track down Osama bin Laden and get his DNA by running a fake vaccination campaign in the area.
“We have received some clarification on this case from Pakistan, indicating that charges against him are not related to his involvement in Osama Bin Laden raid but his contacts with other terrorist groups,” Toner said in his briefing for the media on Wednesday.
Dr Afridi remained in custody for almost a year and was convicted last month to 33 years in prison under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) Act on alleged links with the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam instead of his role in the OBL killing.
Notwithstanding the Pakistani response, the US official stressed that they were still not convinced that Dr Afridi should have been convicted. “We are concerned about him and our position has not changed that there is no basis for holding him captive. This conviction sends a wrong message about our shared interest with Pakistan against terrorism and extremism,” he stated.
He, however, did not have a clear answer as to what objections the US administration has on the Pakistani legal process if Dr Afridi was convicted on charges unrelated to the OBL raid or alleged treason, as was widely believed. “We appeal to Pakistan to consider Dr Afridi’s appeal in a judicious manner and give him right to due process,” he maintained. Toner also revealed that the US was trying to get access to Dr Afridi, but such efforts had not been successful. “We don’t have any contact with Dr Afridi yet. We are seeking access to him but have not been able to get that, because he is not a US citizen,” he explained. He also declined to comment on the reports that Dr Afridi had refused an offer to resettle abroad before he was arrested in the aftermath of the OBL raid.
In response to another question, the spokesman said that the US administration had received the required response directly from the Pakistani authorities in Islamabad, and not through the country’s embassy in Washington, DC. He, however, was not ready to answer whether the response was forwarded by the civilian or military administration of Pakistan and at what level such an interaction had taken place.
Toner also refused to answer another question about drone attacks in Pakistan and whether these were with the consent of Pakistani military and government. “I can’t talk about our classified operations,” he said but stressed that the US “will continue with its goal of disrupting, dismantling and eventually defeating Al Qaeda, because they are still a threat.”
“Extremism and terrorism is a threat for Pakistan’s stability and its people. Nobody has suffered more than the Pakistani people because of terrorist activities,” he said. “Al-Zawahari has got to be somewhere up there, but we have not reached him yet,” he said when asked if the US has any definite clue about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s new chief after OBL.
“I can’t say how many Al Qaeda leaders are still on the US hit list after Al Qaeda’s number two, Al-Libbi’s killing. We are going to continue our efforts to go after Al Qaeda wherever they are,” he emphatically said but denied having any information that the attack on the US embassy in Libya was in retaliation to Al-Libbi’s killing in a drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal area of South Waziristan.