By Ghalib Sultan
An Assistant Political Agent in FATA has sentenced Dr Afridi to 33 years in prison and a fine under the Frontier Crimes Regulations for collaborating with the US CIA in the process that led to the unilateral US action to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Dr Afridi is a Pakistan national domiciled in FATA though his CIA directed activities were carried out in the town of Abbottabad that is not in FATA. Pakistan must have made sure that his trial under the FCR was legally correct because of his domicile status. According to media reports Dr Afridi’s wife is a US national and if true then that may have given the CIA a coercive advantage if any was needed—material gain was definitely involved.
The US by publicly defending and championing the cause of Dr Afridi has established beyond all doubt that Dr Afridi, a Pakistan government employee, was subverted and recruited to work for the CIA. What the US has not explained is why Dr Afridi was left to face the music and why he and his family were not taken out especially when his role was sure to be discovered. The US had abandoned Cuban collaborators after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in the Kennedy era. South Vietnamese collaborators were also abandoned to a horrific fate and now the Afghans are bracing for what awaits them. Angry US law makers have now woken up and demanded that Afridi be released as he has done nothing wrong. He hasn’t under US law but can Pakistan ignore the fact that a Pakistani government official collaborated with a fToreign intelligence agency in a clandestine manner? Not if they do not want to set a precedent for others. Dr Afridi under US direction also recruited other government employees to work with him and by using a vaccination campaign as a cover discredited the government’s health care programs. US law makers have proposed a cut of US$ 33mn—one for each year of Dr Afridi’s prison term—to be deducted from the aid to Pakistan and perhaps paid to Dr Afridi as compensation. This cut comes after a proposal to cut all aid to Pakistan by half for the continued closure of the NATO logistics route. The gloves are off and the strategy is to brow beat Pakistan into compliance. Pakistan, and Dr Afridi, are learning what collaboration with the US really means.
US lawmakers are calling Pakistan an extortionist because it has demanded adequate payment for damage to its infrastructure. Pakistan has been called a schizophrenic ally—living in Alice’s wonderland and one has speculated that if this is Pakistan’s idea of cooperation then what would its opposition look like? You do not want to go down that route not with the present situation in Pakistan. Many in the US are also questioning the timing of Dr Afridi’s conviction and asking who is orchestrating policy in Pakistan. Some media anchors, analysts and writers are answering the question exactly as the US wants it answered. Pakistanis are now realizing the full implications of the change in the US’ strategic direction in South Asia away from Pakistan and decisively towards India. If the down slide in US Pakistan relations is not arrested then Pakistan’s response options will be severely restricted and the US would have effectively destabilized another country and region with disastrous consequences. The Afghans are not the only ones bracing for a catastrophe.