Pak authorities again shift jailed Shakeel Afridi over ‘security reasons’

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Lahore: Pakistani authorities today shifted Dr Shakeel Afridi, who helped CIA track down Osama bin Laden in 2011, to Sahiwal prison in Punjab province for security reasons, his second inter-jail transfer this year, media reports said.

Afridi, 56, was arrested after Osama was killed in a covert US raid at a compound in Pakistan’s Abbotabad city on May 2, 2011. The US has been asking Pakistan to release him.

Initially, he was accused of organising a fake immunization campaign for the CIA to confirm presence of then al-Qaeda chief but later awarded 33 years sentence for alleged links with militants. His sentence was later reduced to 23 years.

Dawn news reported that Afridi was shifted amid tight security to Sahiwal jail from Adiala jail for security reasons.

He had been imprisoned at Peshawar jail but was shifted to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi in April this year, giving air to various kinds of speculations, including the one that American secret agencies were planning a jail break to take Afridi away.

However, the Foreign Office had rejected all speculations about handing over Afridi to the US and said that there was “no deal” with the US for his release.

His wife, daughter and son met him at Adiala Jail on August 3, the report added.

Afridi, a former surgeon of Khyber Agency, had run a false vaccination campaign in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad to help the CIA track down Osama in his compound and kill him in a raid by US Navy Seals on May 2, 2011.

He was arrested from Peshawar later that year.

The issue of Afridi’s release is reportedly one of the major obstacles to the improvement of ties between the US and Pakistan.

Soon after the death of Osama, the US media reported that Afridi had contributed to the success of the CIA operation by collecting DNA samples of Osama’s family through the fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad.

The US State Department has previously said that Afridi has been unjustly imprisoned in Pakistan and Washington has clearly communicated its position to Islamabad in his case, both in public and in private. PTI