UNITED STATES: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Obama betrays doctor who led US to bin Laden
, October 13, 2012
Can there be anything more obscene than the spectacle of President Barack Obama preening himself over the killing of Osama bin Laden while Dr Shakil Afridi, the man really responsible for bringing him to justice, is being tortured in a Pakistani jail?
Dr Afridi, a prominent Pakistani surgeon and public health worker, set up, it is alleged in co-operation with the CIA, a blood-screening and vaccination programme by which bin Laden’s DNA was identified.
The CIA apparently — details are vague — advised Dr Afridi to flee Pakistan, but did nothing to help him get out of the country. Possibly as a direct result of a deliberate leak from the glory-seeking White House, he was arrested by Pakistani authorities and convicted of treason after a trial in a tribal court. He was sentenced to 33 years’ jail and has been reportedly tortured for months.
This is one of those tests of national honour which can come at a nation out of left field. The Obama administration has failed it contemptibly. Every day that passes while Dr Afridi rots in a torture-cell diminishes the honour of the US, and advertises the Obama administration’s impotence to the world.
There are a few obvious points to be made.
First, it is hard to see how Dr Afridi committed anything that could be called treason. Bin Laden was not a Pakistani. He was born in Saudi Arabia and was ethnically a Yemeni. The guilty party is Pakistan for having hidden and sheltered him. A resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council after 9/11 required member states to assist in bringing Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network to justice.
Second, in helping bring one of the worst mass-murderers in history to justice, Dr Afridi performed a public service for the whole world. Whether he did it in hope of a reward or from public-spiritedness and goodwill to the US and horror at bin Laden’s crime is not firmly established and does not matter in any event.
Although tried under Pakistani tribal law, Dr Shakil Afridi’s “crime” was not even committed in Pakistani tribal territory. The sentencing court had no valid jurisdiction in the matter.
Third, the behaviour of the Pakistan Government has been appalling, though perhaps not as utterly contemptible as that of the US, which, as far as can be made out, has done nothing at all to help this man who it should be rewarding and treating as a hero. It is safe to assume that if Ronald Reagan were President today, things would be very different.
The Pakistani government has proved itself to be on the side of the enemies of civilisation. This is one of those times when not merely America but the whole civilised world should show its revulsion. Feebly, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has called the sentence a “real mistake”.
Plainly, US authorities will have to be careful not to make Dr Afridi’s situation worse; but to do nothing seems unthinkable.
Should the civilised nations break off diplomatic relations with Pakistan, and confiscate Pakistani assets abroad, this might concentrate the minds of Pakistan’s rulers wonderfully. This sounds a drastic step to take over one man, but this is one of those occasions when the honour of the civilised world is at stake.
Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan, one of the country’s international celebrities, should be put on the spot and a statement in support of Dr Afridi demanded from him. As chancellor of the University of Bradford and founding chairman of the board of governors of Pakistan’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, it would be only fair to give him a chance to prove his credentials as a civilised man.
Streets in which Pakistani embassies are located could be re-named after Dr Afridi, and Pakistani diplomats should sent to Coventry. A fund could be set up to help him and a collection-point for it established at Ground Zero. There are a number of things that useless body, the Commonwealth, of which Pakistan is a member, could do.
Speaking from behind bars recently, Dr Afridi said he had been picked up three weeks after bin Laden had been killed. The anniversary of the September 11 attacks was an occasion for the Pakistani ISI secret police to inflict special torture and humiliation on him. He claimed that he had been blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed for a year. He had, he said, been burned with cigarettes and electric shocks. His captors taunted him with accusations of working for the CIA.
Meanwhile, in a really stomach-turning effort, President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have made a US$70,000 video for Pakistani television, apologising for the anti-
Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims.
It is to be hoped that the US is exerting real diplomatic pressure behind the scenes to have Dr Shakil Afridi released and that he will be allowed to live in the US.
If it fails to give him real help, the demonstration effect on America’s friends and allies in the Muslim world (if Obama’s diplomacy has left it with any — now a highly doubtful proposition), and indeed elsewhere, will be catastrophic. Further, in addition to both diplomatic and humanitarian considerations, US honour is plainly at stake.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.