Dr Shakil Afridi on mat


In the chain of events leading to the battered relationship between the US and Pakistan, the case of Dr. Afridi has assumed a prominence in the media. Dr Shakil Afridi, 48, ran a fake vaccination programme as a pretext to collect bin Laden family DNA to verify bin Laden’s presence in a compound of Abbottabad. He was detained by Pakistan intelligence officials shortly after the death of bin Laden. Later, APA Bara convicted him for 33 years in prison on four different counts of anti-state activities (helping banned Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and funding $20,000) vide the law governing tribal areas called FCR.
The US has labelled him as a patriot because he helped CIA in hunting down Osama bin Laden. Carl Levin and John McCain, the top senators from the two major US parties on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Afridi’s sentence “shocking and outrageous” and urged Pakistan to pardon and free him immediately otherwise the next tranche of 2 billion dollars will be at risk. Pakistan considers the doctor as a traitor because the doctor’s actions “to spy Osama bin Laden without informing the government was a betrayal of Pakistan.”
The doing of Dr Afridi has generated a heated debate on what constitutes patriotism and treason. Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying one’s country” and Dr Shakil Afridi betrayed the country by collaborating with American CIA without the knowledge of Pakistan’s government. In this way, being part of a state conspiracy of running a fake vaccination programme falls into the ambit of treason by betraying his country. Secondly, Dr Afridi’s fake vaccination campaign has greatly tarnished the ethical standards of medical practice in Pakistan – bringing Pakistani doctors into disrepute and undermined the public trust in mass vaccination and public health programmes, especially polio campaign.
The costly war on terror in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly notorious and most of the European countries believe in earlier withdrawal of their troops to pacify the growing anti-involvement public opinion at home. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism – its northern borders devastated by US-led counter-insurgency campaign, its heartlands wracked by growing wave of Talibanisation and economy sliding down day by day. It suffered serious losses in terms of human resource victims and devastation of valuable infrastructure. Even then, Pakistan is facing rebukes in the shape of allegations that hurt their ego badly. Pakistan needs help from the superpower in encountering domestic challenges, like overcoming power problem, supporting economic downslide and of course much desired peace in the region. The US Congressman Ron Paul, who is leading the effort to strip Pakistan of all American aid funds, should look at the other side of the coin that will tell that Dr Afridi has committed multiple offences for which he should be punished not rewarded. This is how the Americans can win the sympathies and support of masses of the war-affected country.