ISLAMABAD - Pakistan government says Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped CIA verify identity of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, violated country’s laws and he is being tried by the courts that will decide his fate.
Shakil Afridi is being tried for charges other than his running a fake anti-polio campaign to help US trace and verify bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan under Frontier laws in a trial court of country’s tribal areas.
Dr Afia Siddiqui’s issue was also raised with US authorities in one of the meetings the PM had with US authorities, said Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry on Friday. In reply to a question during his weekly media briefing that focused on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to the United States, he said the government of Pakistan had rendered considerable help during the trial phase.
“Now the focus is on the arrangement about transfer of offenders. Transfer of offenders means that the offender can serve the remaining sentence in his/her own country”, he said, confirming media reports that government was considering a prisoner swap agreement with the US or some such group of countries that could help repatriate Dr Aafia. Such reports had previously been denied by the government officials.
The spokesperson said the PM’s visit was successful and a comprehensive framework has been evolved to build the relationship for common benefit of the two countries. “We hope the visit would help strengthen the bilateral relations based on mutual interest and mutuality of benefit”. He added that meetings of the five expert level working groups will be held soon with the meeting of working on energy slated for next month and Strategic Group meeting early next year.
Aizaz Ahmed said the prime minister held separate meetings with key US officials. Besides meeting with President Obama, he met US Vice President, US Secretary of State, President World Bank, Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Trade Representative, US Secretary of Energy, and US Deputy Secretary of Defence.
“The prime minister’s separate meetings with the concerned US high officials demonstrates his endeavour to reach out widely to the US leadership to address all issues of Pakistan’s interest and concern simultaneously”, he added.
On US drone strikes, he said Pakistan’s position has been voiced in clear terms and hoped that the drone strikes will end. As regards claims of Pakistan’s consent to the drone strikes, he said the government of Pakistan has made it clear that the drone strikes must stop.
“Whatever understandings there may or may not have been in the past, the present government has been very clear regarding its policy on the issue. We regard such strikes as violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. These are also counter-productive”, he added.
He further elaborated that the issue of drone strikes will continue to be discussed. There is a working group on counter-terrorism, which will be meeting, in the next few months. This issue will be discussed bilaterally at the expert level and ministerial level. “We will also continue to push it at the international track. This strategy is working and we should give it some more time,“ the spokesperson remarked.
The spokesperson said that Pakistan has been striving for good relations with all its neighbours, including Afghanistan and India, to ensure peace and stability in the region. Answering a question on Pakistan-India relations, he said that Prime Minister Sharif briefed US President Obama on the progress in the improvement of these ties and stressed the need that Pakistan and India should join hands in fighting common enemy the terrorism.
To another question, the spokesperson said that Pakistani troops only retaliate when fired upon on LoC adding that “we had no intention to create agitation and Pakistani troops follow a policy of not indulging in firing first.” He went on to say that Pakistan has already expressed serious concerns over Indian troops’ recent violations of ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) and pointed out that the Indian forces in recent days have intensified unprovoked shelling on the working boundary and targeted twenty-seven Pakistani posts.
“The recent violation of LoC by India has resulted in the death of two civilians and one-security personnel”, he said, adding that despite these violations’ Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended a hand of friendship to India and he has repeatedly expressed Pakistan’s desire to have good neighbourly relations with India. He said India should respect the ceasefire and reciprocate to Pakistan’s sincere efforts for peace and stability in the region.
On Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the spokesperson said this matter was also discussed with US authorities and position of the government of Pakistan was made known. “It should be seen in the context of acute energy crisis that we have in our country. All options are on the table and the government is pursuing the project”, he added. To a question about any US objection on government-Taliban talks, the spokesperson said no country including the US has expressed any concern, as it was Pakistan’s internal matter.