On Monday, the US marked the 16th anniversary of one of the most devastating terror attacks of the world, the one on the World Trade Center, New York, on September 11, 2001.
It has been six years since the mastermind of the attack, Osama bin Laden was tracked down by the US, with help of a Pakistani doctor. But ever since then, despite a number of efforts by US lawmakers, including restrictions on US aid, Dr. Shakil Afridi remains imprisoned in Pakistan as a traitor. Although he was convicted of charges that have nothing to do with tracing Osama, his supporters in the US are firm on the opinion that his imprisonment is payback for his contribution in the bin Laden matter.
The Senate Appropriations Committee of the US passed the spending bill for the financial year 2018 in which it has, once again, withheld more than Rs. 211 crores (USD33 million) as security and economic assistance to Pakistan until it is certified that Dr. Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges in connection with assistance provided to the US in tracking Osama bin Laden. The US has held the amount deliberately to indicate the 33-year imprisonment sentenced to Afridi.
Dr. Afridi was arrested a few weeks after bin Laden was hunted and killed by the US in the compound in Abbottabad where he had lived undetected for years. It was later confirmed by US officials that it was Dr. Afridi who had helped in identification of Abbottabad occupants by acquiring DNA evidence portraying it as a public vaccination campaign. The doctor had spent almost a year in jail as he was initially accused of treason and was, in 2012, convicted of having connections with an obscure extremist group by a Peshawar tribal tribunal. But his supporters have held these charged as framed and have been a cause of concern for US lawmakers for all these years.
The FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act passed in July this year calls Dr. Shakil Afridi
A hero to whom the people of the United States, Pakistan and the world owe a debt of gratitude for his help in finally locating Osama bin Laden before more innocent American, Pakistani and other lives were lost to this terrorist leader.
Since 2001, America has contributed more than Rs. 2,11,000 crores (USD 33 billion) from its taxpayers’ money to Pakistan either as direct assistance or as reimbursements for expenses towards counter-terrorism. All this while, there have been more than one attempt from America to have Dr. Shakil released but to no avail. On the one hand, Pakistan boasts of being the number one counter-terrorism ally of the US and on the other hand, it hypocritically incarcerates a hero in its prison who actually deserves honor for his contribution to combating terrorism.