Afridi: whistleblower or traitor?


Shakil Afridi once again makes headlines with even more controversial statements. The doctor who headed a fake polio vaccination program was responsible for disclosing the hiding location of OBL to the US forces. The entire incident was a great source of embarrassment for the Pakistani government and especially the army. Rumors about ISI’s involvement with militants grew a spine.

Is Afridi a whistleblower or a traitor? Depends on which side of the fence we choose to stand on. For Pakistan Shakil Afridi is guilty of backstabbing his people. By working as a spy with the CIA, instead of helping Pakistan Army (equally involved, if not more, in the war on terror) Dr. Afridi has betrayed his people and nation on more than one level.

Let’s have a look at the background of this controversial interview conducted by FOX News, a news channel notorious for being biased, uninformed and presumptuous in its broadcasts. The interview, CNN claims, was taken inside Peshawar jail. For a detainee like Shakil Afridi who is ‘heavily guarded’ to have a chance to make such bold statements in the presence of guards is highly unlikely. The entire interview seems like a hoax. There is no audio or video footage available to the public yet. Furthermore, when contacted, prison official were unaware of any such interview.

Or perhaps Afridi, and Western media, are exaggerating the level of isolation imposed on Afridi, for even the most liberal democracies (like USA) have known better than to allow ‘traitors’ such liberties. We have the example of Bradley Manning, who was disallowed any contact with media, family or friends. Manning’s example opens us to a broader debate: where do we draw the line between ‘blowing the whistle’ and ‘backstabbing’ your country’?

The timing of this release is also very interesting. The news was introduced on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 which also happened to be the day when AQIP senior leader’s death in a drone attack was confirmed. A perfect way to exploit public emotions for more viewership, and support.

In his so-called interview, Afridi labored on and on about the brutal torture he had to bear at the hands of the ISI. I am pretty sure a traitor is not given the red carpet treatment anywhere in the world especially in the nation which Afridi loves and respects so much. Guantanamo Bay prison is well known for their techniques too like waterboarding. Just because the US chooses to torture prisoners does not make the methods acceptable. Human right activists have protested against interrogation techniques used by security agencies across the world. But let’s face it traitors are never welcome.

Shakil Afridi also stated that the ISI has links with militants including the Haqqani Network, and instead of taking punitive actions chose to release them. Haqqani Network was only recently placed on the list of foreign terrorist organizations by the US. By linking the Haqqanis to the ISI, Afridi has made a strong statement regarding the motives of our government. This is something that is bound to leave an impact on both Americans and Pakistani. Already a US Senator is propagating to shut down US aid to Pakistan.

Afridi also accused Pakistani government for eliciting US funds under the excuse of fighting in the War of Terror. Pakistan has lost too many lives, displaced millions of its people and suffered financially from this war. Having lost more than 35,000 civilians, 4,000 soldiers in the war, it is true that no other country has suffered more in this war against terror than Pakistan. If the war on terror is in itself disputed, then America’s own motives in this campaign are without doubt questionable.

Afridi’s part in the OBL operation is still fuzzy. He refrained from disclosing his recruitment in the CIA or the vaccination program, claims he was unaware that he was collecting DNA samples of OBL. But at the same time feels proud for helping the CIA “out of love for the US”. So which was it Afridi: Did you know or did you not?

The nation he expresses his love for so ardently could have smuggled him out of Pakistan or even arranged some diplomatic status just like the US did in Raymond Davis’s case. However, they left the “hero” doctor in Pakistan and only protested against his imprisonment. He claims to have helped the CIA against OBL. The bigger question is: was his loyalty to America or the cause of anti-terrorism ? Or just the money that we can assume he was getting for the job. Poor Afridi. Hit by a triple whammy. First used and discarded. Then identified and betrayed to add credibility to the US operation and now ‘ interviewed’ and confirmed as a traitor. Finally in tandem with this as if on cue we have the article by C.Fair in Foreign Policy magazine exhorting the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist supporting state.

Why is it that when US war crimes are leaked the man is reduced to impregnable confinement, for his words threaten ‘national security’ and the lives of millions. Is Pakistan less sovereign than the United States? Perhaps poor nations are only on the wrong side of the fence.


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