It has been more than eight years since U.S. Navy SEALS raided the compound and killed the most wanted man in the world – Usama bin Laden.
Yet while the world’s eyes are now set on eliminating other terrorist targets, the Pakistani doctor who played a pivotal role in that 2011 operation is still languishing behind bars with little hope of seeing daylight.
“His wife told me that his health is deteriorating with each passing day since they last visited him a month back,” Qamar Nadeem, the lawyer for Dr. Shakil Afridi, told Fox News this week. “He was under the strict orders not to disclose his diet to any member of his family upon their visit. However, they observed that he has been losing pounds and pounds of weight with each meeting, leaving behind a skeleton. This has been very concerning.”
The impoverished family, who harbor heavy concerns over their own safety, are still forced to change locations every few months and lead entirely underground lives. Afridi’s wife, children and his brother Jamil are the only ones permitted by the jail superintendent to visit him once a month, Nadeem claimed, expressing frustrating that his legal representative he been repeatedly denied visitation.
“Since his move to the high-security jail in Sahiwal, I have not been allowed to meet him, although I have been visiting the jail twice a month requesting to see my client,” Nadeem said. “But each time I am denied access without any reason. But I cannot leave my client at their mercy – we don’t know the full extent of his mental and physical health condition.”
Subsequently, Nadeem noted, he is preparing to file a petition with the Peshawar High Court to exercise his “constitutional right of a meeting” with the ailing Afridi.
Afridi is currently being held in a high-security prison in Sahiwal, Punjab Province, after being moved from a more guarded facility after rumors ran rampant that the U.S. was preparing to bust him out – although no official reason was provided to his lawyer.
Afridi was originally apprehended just weeks after the 2011 raid on the Abbottabad compound that led to the death of bin Laden.
Pentagon sources close to the operation later told Fox News that efforts and offers had been put in place for Afridi and his immediate family to leave the country. The doctor, however, is said to have declined based on the notion he would not be able to take his extended family. Moreover, Afridi – who was not aware of the target or the exact nature of the mission when he accepted the paycheck – did not expect that the points of the carefully-crafted CIA scheme would be exposed, and thus his cover to be blown.
The doctor, who is now around 57 years old, was sentenced in May 2012 by a four-member tribal of civil administrators, in what critics perceived as a colonial-era kangaroo court. His review petition had been ongoing in a separate what was previously known as a FATA tribunal before its merger with the KPK province, has now been moved to Peshawar high court, but without any success in moving forward and slapped with constant postponements, Nadeem lamented.
Moreover, Afridi is not behind bars for treason despite the public perception otherwise. He is instead serving out a 23-year-sentence under the conviction that he had ties to the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam. However, Nadeem has vigorously rebuffed such accusations as A being wildly fabricated excuse for punishment.
“Both Pakistan and the U.S. hold great importance to each other. We want to solve this issue with bilateral talks and diplomacy because it is the only solution left,” Nadeem said. “Dr. Shakil holds great importance to the U.S., please don’t forget him.”