The US 'use and throw' culture

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The US 'use and throw' culture

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 | Ranu Joardar

The US 'use and throw' culture

The fate of the Pakistani doctor who helped the US track Osama bin laden to the latter’s hideout, has been languishing in prison. The US has paid lip service to his plight and conducts business as usual with Islamabad

In recent days, the CIA marked the fifth anniversary of the killing of Osama bin laden by live-tweeting the (May 2011 SEAl Team 6) raid on the Al Qaeda founder’s compound in Pakistan. A series of 13 tweets with the hashtag #UBlRaid summed up the raid on the walled compound located a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. While the world celebrates the death of Osama bin laden, how can we forget the doctor without whose help even the US security forces could not have succeeded  Shakil Afridi.

Shakil Afridi is a Pakistani physician who helped the CIA run a fake hepatitis vaccine programme in Abbottabad to confirm Osama bin laden’s presence in the city, by obtaining DNA samples.While his native country considers him a traitor, in the US he is hailed a hero. Yet, since 2012 he is languishing in jail.

Afridi’s appeal against a 23-year prison sentence awaits a final judgement. The former senior surgeon now lives in solitary confinement in a small room able to see his immediate family no more than six times a year. “I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice”, his elder brother Jamil told AFP.

Afridi was arrested at the Torkham border-crossing, while trying to flee the country days after the raid. On May 23, 2012, he was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment for treason, initially believed to be in connection with the bin laden raid, but later revealed to be due to his alleged ties with a local Islamist warlord Mangal Bagh. lawyers appealed against the verdict and on  August 29, 2013, his sentence was overturned and a re-trial ordered. Then, in mid-November 2013, he was charged with murder  with regard to the death of a patient he had treated eight years ago.

The killing of Osama bin laden was a huge success for President Barack Obama as it had decapitated  Al Qaeda, thus shattering the organisation’s ability to carry out further atrocities. However, the engagements of the US after the clandestine operation suggests that Washington, DC have pretty much more important issues to handle than getting Afridi safe out of Pakistan.

Though some argue that, to put pressure on Pakistan to release Afridi, the US assistance to Pakistan has continued to decrease. But on the other side, as the supporters of the doctor say, the CIA never seemed to have had any plan for Afridi’s immediate evacuation from Pakistan, even though it undoubtedly knew that Pakistan’s authorities would definitely and straightaway launch an exhaustive probe into the circumstances of the raid, which would also certainly lead to Afridi’s capture.

For tactical political reasons, Pakistan did not charge Afridi with treason, as that would surely have attracted further reservations against it from the US and its other Western allies over its commitment to the global war on terror. Instead, he was charged with having ties with an insurgent leader, and when no proof supported that thought, a ridiculous case was made up.

Ever since then, Afridi is in jail. Though the US occasionally, for the sake of thousands of US supporters of Afridi, calls for his release, it has actually never been serious enough; only if it was serious enough it would have played some of its many political and economic ‘pressure cards’ in order to compel Pakistan to release him. It simply pursues other strategic interests in which Pakistan is an important partner and/or facilitator, and which are worth sacrificing Afridi for: take the instance of peace talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban, which the US is particularly interested in achieving. Qamar Nadeem, Afridi’s lawyer, who has been denied access to him for the past two years, now believes his client’s best hope for early release is US pressure. “But so far, the Americans have not shown their support”, he rues.


While the CIA and the US Government celebrate the fifth anniversary, the sufferings of Afridi continues. The case of  Shakil Afridi, whose help brought down the mastermind of 9/11 attack and who has since then been at Pakistan’s mercy, questions the attitude of the US. His fate dramatises, in the form of a tragic story of how the US betrays its friends, ruthlessly uses them as per its accord and then throws them to the wolves, and lies about the affair while maintaining a stance of moral righteousness for larger public consumption.

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