Triple Jeopardy: The many trials of Dr Shakil Afridi

Shakil AfridiWhen it was first reported that Dr Shakil Afridi had worked with the CIA to locate Osama bin Laden, it didn’t take a law degree to understand that the doctor was in for a tough future. Actually, a law degree wouldn’t have helped at all. Feisel H Naqvi, partner at Bhandari, Naqvi & Riaz and an advocate of the Supreme Court explained in fine detail that the conviction was neither legal nor “sensible”. As criticism of the conviction pour in, though, the doctor’s real troubles appear to have only begun.

Despite bad feelings about the way the Abbottabad raid was carried out, people felt equally sick about the way the doctor was whisked away to FATA, given a secret trial under FCR without any lawyer, and then sentenced to 33 years in prison. Analysts from across the political spectrum began to speak out against the lack of justice, and it began to look more like a scapegoating than a legitimate trial.

Then, a new type of report began to appear in the papers. Dr Afridi was described as “a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing”. Anonymous “current and former Pakistani officials” said “his main obsession was making easy money”. As predicted, “US officials called the accusations character assassination”.

Now we are being told that Dr Afridi wasn’t sentenced for helping the CIA – he was sentenced for helping extremist militants!

The tribal court that convicted the doctor said his “love” for Mangal Bagh “was an open secret”.

It said the accused provided two million rupees ($22,000) to Lashkar-e-Islam and helped to provide medical assistance to militant commanders in Khyber.

So now we’re to believe that Dr Shakil Afridi was a hard-drinking, womanising, rapist, thief, swindler, CIA agent, extremist militant. It seems that no matter who you are, you now have a reason to want to see Shakil Afridi punished. How bloody convenient.

It’s quite well known that you’re supposed to convict someone in the media before you drag them into court and actually sentence them to prison (or worse). By the looks of it, the way Dr Afridi was rushed through the system, someone forgot to do the dirty work first and now they’re playing catch up.

Whether the doctor did something illegal and deserves to be punished has become beside the point, as the bumbling way his case is being handled now overshadows any question of whether he helped the wrong agency track down bin Laden. We are now being told that the tribal court recommended Dr Afridi “be produced before the relevant concerned court for further proceedings under the law” – this time, possibly, for treason under Article 6.

Dr Afridi was convicted in a secret trial, we were told, for helping the CIA. When people reacted poorly to the whole secret trial bit, we were told that it’s okay because he’s a real jerk. Now we’re told that he wasn’t really convicted of working to find terrorists, but of helping them, and he could face another trial for working with the CIA. After bungling it the first time, is someone trying to get another bite at the apple?

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