US yet to see reports on Pakistan’s willingness to release Dr Afridi

Washington: The United States is yet to see reports on Pakistan’s readiness to discuss Dr Shakil Afridi’s release from jail. Afridi, who helped US’s Central Investigation Agency (CIA) in tracking down Osama bin Laden, is considered a CIA hero.

However, back home, Dr Afridi has been branded as a traitor and was sent behind bars by the Pakistani regime. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had recently told Fox News that Islamabad is open to talks about his release from jail.

Reacting to the statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “Yeah, I think they’ve been saying that for quite some time that there could be some movement on that. We have yet to see that.”

Nauert also spoke about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Qureshi on Tuesday, “I can confirm with you that the Secretary did meet with his counterpart at the State Department today.

I’m not sure exactly when that was. It was sometime this afternoon. I don’t have a readout of that meeting just yet. If I have one to bring for you, provide to you, I certainly will. But we had a good trip when the Secretary (Mike Pompeo) went to Pakistan and had good, fruitful meetings with the Pakistani Government.”

Commenting on Dr Afridi’s fate, Qureshi had told Fox News, “Openings are always there. He is viewed in a particular light in Pakistan; he is viewed as a traitor in Pakistan. But he is viewed as a friend in the US. So we have to bridge this gap.” He asserted that courts will decide Afridi’s fate and not politics.

“We have a legal process. Afridi went through that legal process, he was given a fair chance to plead his case. He was sentenced, he was convicted and is serving a sentence. We expect you to respect our legal process, as we respect yours,” Qureshi added.

Afridi, who has been awarded a 33-year sentence in 2012, is believed to have committed treason by working with CIA, after running a fake vaccine programme, which helped the agency to confirm Osama’s presence in Abbottabad. However, he was convicted on the pretext of having ties with a terrorist group called Lashkar e-Islam. His lawyers have denied the claims of his ties with the terrorist outfit by calling them bogus.

Even before being elected as the US President last year, Donald Trump had promised to facilitate Dr Afridi’s release.