Saturday, August 31, 2013

The case of Afridi

Saturday, August 31, 2013(7star news):- The decision by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) commissioner to overturn Dr Shakil Afridi's 33-year prison sentence may finally bring some clarity to a case that has always been shrouded in confusion and subterfuge. Afridi is best known for colluding with the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden by administering fake vaccines to collect DNA but he was never charged for that crime. Instead he was incarcerated for working for the militant Mangal Bagh group, an accusation that has never been proven to anyone's satisfaction and which seems unlikely given Dr Shakil's CIA associations. On top of that, Afridi was put on trial in the tribal areas under the FCR, which did not allow him to mount a sturdy defence or even have a lawyer present. The FCR is an anachronistic law which the PPP government had promised to do away with or, at the very least, reform because it frequently leads to injustice. The FCR commissioner has overturned the verdict on technical grounds, saying that the assistant political agent did not have the authority to hand down such a long sentence and Afridi will now be re-tried by the political agent. This does not address the issue at hand. Afridi should be tried for the accusation that he worked with the CIA and his trial should be held under regular law, and not the FCR, since this is a case with significant national security implications.

If Afridi was part of the Osama bin Laden manhunt and worked as a tool of an agency of a foreign power, putting him on trial would be the most appropriate thing to do. Punishment would be desirable also because his actions have contributed to the paranoia against vaccinations being a western plot against Muslims, even though his lawyers can make a case for leniency since ultimately he helped in the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist. There have also been suggestions that the developments in Afridi's case have been orchestrated so that he can be swapped for Aafia Siddiqui in a prison exchange. However, the US has never openly hinted at the slightest inclination to release Aafia. Be that as it may, justice calls for Afridi to be tried for his CIA work, and not for unsubstantiated charges of helping militants. Afridi's retrial under the FCR will commence within a week, which is sufficient time for the government or the Supreme Court to intervene and bring him under the ambit of the mainstream judicial system.

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