Pakistan has rapped US presidential candidate Donald Trump for his “ignorance” in demanding the release of a doctor who helped track Osama bin Laden, saying his fate will be decided by the country’s courts.
Trump’s remarks about Shakeel Afridi, who has been in prison since he was arrested in 2011 for working with the CIA to hunt for bin Laden, touched a raw nerve in Pakistan’s establishment and interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticised the real estate billionaire in a strongly worded statement on Monday.
Khan said, “Contrary to Mr Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America.” He added Trump “should learn to treat sovereign nations with respect”.
“Mr Trump’s statement only serves to show not only his insensitivity, but also his ignorance about Pakistan,” Khan said. “Pakistan is a country which has suffered much, and the cost it had to pay in supporting the US over the years has been mindboggling.”
Trump, the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, told Fox News on Friday that, if elected, he would get Pakistan to free Afridi “in two minutes” because Islamabad receives a lot of development aid from the US.
The 69-year-old tycoon also said during a town hall meeting last week he would turn to India for help in dealing with a “semi-unstable” nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Khan, considered to be close to Pakistan’s powerful military, said in his statement that “Afridi is a Pakistani citizen and nobody else holds the right to dictate to us about his future”.
Afridi’s fate will be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States”, he added.
Khan dismissed the aid provided by the US to Pakistan as “peanuts”. He said: “The peanuts the US has given us...should not be used to threaten or browbeat us into following Trump’s misguided vision of foreign policy.”
The killing of bin Laden at a compound located a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy embarrassed the powerful military. Since then, the two sides have worked to improve their ties.
Since 2001, the US has paid Pakistan about $13 billion as reimbursement for its involvement in the war on terror.
But the issue of Afridi continues to be a sore point in bilateral ties. Pakistan sentenced him in 2012 to 33 years in jail on charges of backing the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam. Rights activists said the charge was trumped up.
In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a bill that proposed to withhold $33 million from assistance to Pakistan, with one million for each year in his 33-year prison term.
After his original conviction was overturned, Afridi was charged in 2013 with murder for the death of a patient eight years earlier. He remains in jail.