Twenty days after the US special forces operation that killed Osama Bin Laden in May 2011, Pakistan detained Dr. Shakil Afridi. He has never been formally accused of working for the CIA, but he is considered the person who led US services to the compound where the al Qaeda leader and his family lived for six years in Abbottabad, 150 kilometers from Islamabad.
Since his arrest, he has been held in the strictest confinement at Sahiwal Central Prison in Punjab province, where he is serving a 23-year sentence for his alleged relationship with the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Islam. The family always denied their connection with this organization and even revealed that in 2008 they had to pay more than 6,000 euros to be able to free him after being kidnapped by his militants in the tribal areas of the north of the country. Family members consider him the scapegoat found by Pakistanis after the shameful situation that arose after verifying that the most wanted terrorist on earth was at the gates of a major military base.
There are few details about his personal life. It is known that he graduated from Khyber Medical College in 1990, his wife is from Abbottabad, they have three children and are in their fifties. As chief medical officer in the Khyber district, he was charged with overseeing several US-funded vaccination programs and, the CIA revealed a year after his arrest, collaborated with US intelligence. One of these collaborative projects was to launch a program to vaccinate against Hepatitis B in Abbottabad. The real objective of the campaign was to obtain DNA evidence from any of the children in the complex where the Bin Laden family lived in this quiet mid-mountain town located at the foothills of the Kakul Mountains.
The CIA had the three-storey complex in its sights after tracking AQ’s messenger, Abu Ahmad Al Kuwaiti, but it needed to have proof that Osama was there before launching such a risky operation in a supposedly friendly country like Pakistan. Afridi led the vaccination campaign although, according to the Abbottabad Commission, created by Pakistan to investigate the events, it was not aware that the ultimate goal of the CIA was to hunt down bin Laden.
The United States treats him as a hero, but to Pakistanis he is a traitor. President Donald Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that if he won he would be released “in two minutes,” but could not keep his word. The ‘Operation Gerónimo’ to hunt Osama turned the relationship between Islamabad and Washington upside down and after learning of Afridi’s 33-year sentence – which was later lowered to 23 – the United States announced a cut in aid to Pakistan of one million dollars for every year spent incarcerated. The prisoner has already cost ten million and some media such as the BBC network indicate that he could soon be released as a result of a prisoner exchange in which the Americans would hand over Aafia Siddiqi, the Pakistani neuroscientist known as ‘Lady Al Qaeda’, in exchange of Dr. Afridi, the person who unknowingly closed the circle around Bin Laden after almost a decade of investigations.
#Ten #Million #Doctor #Helped #Hunt #Bin #Laden