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LinkAsia | Dec 19
Eight polio vaccination workers have been shot in the past 48 hours across Pakistan. No groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. Lin...
The drone strike brought memories of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago. The raid is still a hot topic, more so after Pakistan convicted a man for revealing bin Laden's hideout. Here's contributor Wajahat Khan.
In a post-Osama world, the latest bad patch of relations between the US and Pakistan revolves around one man: Shakeel Afridi.
Considered a hero by the likes of Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton, Afridi is the Pakistani doctor who ran a fake vaccination program for the CIA, allegedly helping the American spy agency identify the compound that housed Osama bin Laden.
Arrested soon after the raid by Pakistani authorities, Afridi has not been heard from, or about, until exactly a year after his abduction. Afridi has now been sentenced to 33 years. But not on the initial charge of treason for helping a foreign intelligence agency. Rather, Afridi was convicted for maintaining ties with a militant group.
And he was convicted not by a court, but by a tribal political agent under an old British colonial-era law that didn't even allow him legal counsel.
That's the big debate on social media in Pakistan. The country's Twitterati was ripped apart by the left vs right, traitor vs hero divide.
Here, one of Pakistan's leading news editors wrote:
"Pakistan had the right to charge Dr. Afridi for colluding with CIA, but he also had the right to a fair trial."
She was rebutted by one of Pakistan's most popular, but very nationalist, talk show hosts. Mubasher Lucman cited the case of Jonathan Pollard, the American who was sentenced by a US court for spying for the Israelis. Lucman asked sarcastically about the Americans:
"And they are worried for Afridi?" His tweet was widely cited.
Those remarks were echoed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the assassinated Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In a US TV appearance, Bilawal reminded Charlie Rose about the inconsistency of the American position on Afridi.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari:
Look at the case of Jonathan Pollard here in the United States, where he too was cooperating with Israeli intelligence and was sentenced to life imprisonment by a US court.
And despite all efforts by Israeli politicians, they've been unable to secure his release.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari:
The exchange was a YouTube sensation in Pakistan and did little to hurt the young politician's reputation here. And so the debate raged.
This tweet recalled that Afridi was "not working against Pakistan. He was working against al-Qaeda."
A well-known liberal Pakistani wrote about the Afridi case:
"...asking for a fair trial and due process...is not supporting his mission or CIA. Justice and fair play for all..."
As in most things Pakistani, it was a left vs right divide. Journalists, human rights advocates, political hawks and uber-nationalists all debated the treason or the heroism of Shakeel Afridi. The bottom line, however, remains the same--due process, as well as the unclear fate of the doctor who played a critical role in the death of the world•s most wanted man.
For LinkAsia, from Islamabad, this is Waj S. Khan.
In the US Congress, lawmakers voted to cut US aid to Pakistan by USD$33 million. One million for every year of Dr. Afridi's sentence.