Dr Shakil Afridi, the man who is accused by Pakistan of orchestrating a DNA collection scheme with the help of the US and is credited to be the man who helped nab Osama Bin Ladin, sits in a maximum security cell in Peshawar Central Jail.
He says he fears for his life and his family members are given limited access to him while he is kept at a distance from other prisoners. Afridi’s work at collecting DNA samples led to his arrest soon after the raid that killed Ladin in 2012.
Sentenced to 33 years in jail when he was nabbed by intelligence agencies in May 2012, a retrial was ordered in August which has raised expectations that Afridi may be able to be given what his lawyer calls a fair hearing. Possibly also bail, but at this stage this seems unlikely, say lawyers.
This week, after receiving multiple threats from militants, Dr Afridi’s lawyer Samiullah Afridi left the country for Dubai. Militants have also threatened to set an example with Dr Afridi and have also issued warnings to his family members to stay away from him and disown him. The US regards Afridi as a hero. This request by the Americans is being considered say Pakistan government officials.
It is unclear what the future holds for Afridi but what has become apparent is that his activities have very adversely affected the country’s anti-polio drive. Most NGOs cannot enter the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) as there is a serious threat to their lives from militants.
The TTP has outlawed the anti-polio drive and now only government volunteers venture in these two areas where polio incidence is at its highest.