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Friday, January 24, 2014

Nawaz rejects $33m US deal over Shakil Afridi

 Nawaz rejects $33m US deal over Shakil Afridi

 Ansar AbbasiWednesday, January 22, 2014 
From Print Edition

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the cabinet meeting held on Monday rejected the US bill linking US$33 million aid to the release of Dr Shakil Afridi and resolved that Pakistan would not compromise on such matters of national security and sovereignty.

A cabinet minister confided to The News that the prime minister was upset over Washington’s move and made it clear that no such conditions would be acceptable to Pakistan. The minister said the prime minister ruled out the possibility of releasing Dr Shakil Afridi and handing him over to Washington.

Nawaz Sharif, it is said, during the same cabinet meeting directed the foreign ministry to issue Islamabad’s strong disappointment over Washington’s move. The FO issued the statement the same evening.

The prime minister assured his cabinet members that Dr Afridi’s fate would be decided by the independent judiciary of the country and there was no question of entertaining Washington’s request to send him to America in return for US$33 million.

Aid or no aid, the prime minister is said to have told the cabinet, Afridi would not be handed over to any country.

Dr Shakil Afridi is accused of assisting the CIA to track Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad by exploiting the polio vaccination campaign. Afridi, who was charged with high treason for his shameful act, has become the darling of the US for his work for the CIA that led to the May 2 Abbottabad operation.

Using the polio vaccination campaign for spying purposes by the CIA had furthered the problems for Pakistan as in retaliation to this, the TTP started targeting polio workers in different parts of the country.

Before the recent adoption of bill by US Congress linking US$33 million to the release of Dr Shakil Afridi, Washington had repeatedly taken up the issue of Afridi’s release and his departure to the US but Islamabad did not agree.

During Nawaz Sharif’s official visit to the US a few months back, President Obama also discussed the issue of Afridi and his release but there too Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the issue was with the judiciary, which had to decide the fate of the accused.

The recent adoption of bill is said to be a frustrated move by Washington to pressure Islamabad to free the alleged CIA agent, who is a Pakistani citizen and is charged with committing a serious crime against the country.

The Foreign Office on Monday expressed its disappointment. “We are disappointed that the bill proposes to withhold US$33 million from assistance on account of Dr Shakil Afridi’s detention,” the Foreign Office spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that Dr Afridi, a citizen of Pakistan, is accused of having violated the country’s laws. The FO added that Afridi’s action also caused immense damage to the polio campaign in the country. “His case is sub judice and he remains entitled to due process under the law. Consequently, any linkage of US assistance to this case is not in keeping with the spirit of cooperation between the two countries,” the FO spokesperson said.