The court in the Khyber Agency, which sentenced Afridi for 33 years last week, said that he was punished, not for his links to the American spy agency, but because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which amounts to waging war against the state.
Analysts said the judgment could further complicate US arguments that he should be released. They said the news that he was convicted of something other than treason for helping a foreign agency was a surprise.
As the Los Angeles Times notes, “up until this week, Pakistani authorities had never mentioned any pending charges against Afridi that alleged ties with militant groups.”
The New York Times adds: “The order accused Dr Afridi, as a supporter of Lashkar-e-Islam, of embracing an ‘ideology based on hatred’ that sought to overthrow the government.
“His demeanor as a public servant proves his disloyalty and feeling of enmity toward the state and government of Pakistan,” it said.
“In interviews, Dr. Afridi’s friends and relatives paint a different picture of that relationship. They say that Lashkar-e-Islam fighters kidnapped Dr Afridi in 2008, after complaints about his surgical work, and held him hostage until he paid a large fine.”
Meanwhile, some Pakistani officials may be trying to cast doubt on Afridi’s character in another way. Reports say, “In interviews over the weekend, several current and former Pakistani officials described the doctor, Shakeel Afridi, as a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing.”
In Washington, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, said he would introduce a pair of bills next week to address Afridi’s plight. One would strip Pakistan, which received $2.1 billion from the US for the current fiscal year, of all foreign aid until Afridi’s 33-year sentence is overturned and he’s allowed to leave the country; the bill other would grant Afridi US citizenship.
The measures would go beyond the vote by a Senate panel last week to strip Pakistan of $33 million in aid.
“Pakistan must understand that they are choosing the wrong side. They accuse Dr. Afridi of working against Pakistan, but he was simply helping the US capture the head of Al Qaeda. Surely Pakistan is not linking their interests with those of an international terrorist organization,” Paul said in a statement.
“Foreign aid has been an abysmal failure precisely for this reason — we give the aid to governments who then turn and work against our national interest. That must end.”