Shakil Afridi

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Shakil Afridi
Born 1962 (age 49–50)
Malikdinkhel, Bara, Khyber Agency, FATA, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistan-American, declared naturalised US citizen
Alma mater Khyber Medical College
Occupation Physician
Known for Helped CIA run fake hepatitis vaccine program[1] (Abbottabad, Pakistan) to confirm Osama bin Laden's presence through DNA samples.
Religion Islam

Shakil Afridi (Urdu: شکیل آفریدی‎) – or Shakeel Afridi – is a Pakistani physician who helped the CIA run a fake hepatitis vaccine program[2] in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to confirm Osama bin Laden's presence in the city by obtaining DNA samples.[3] Details of his activities emerged during the Pakistani investigation of the deadly raid on bin Laden's residence.[4] This account is disputed in a recent account of events which implies Afridi was implicated as a cover for the real CIA operative. [5] Afridi was arrested at the Torkham border crossing while trying to flee the country days after the raid.[6] On 23 May 2012, he was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment for treason, initially believed to be in connection with the bin Laden raid, but later revealed to be due to alleged ties with a local Islamist warlord Mangal Bagh.[7][8][9] Lawyers appealed against the verdict on 1 June 2012.[10] On 29 August 2013, his sentence was overturned and a retrial ordered.[11] In mid-November 2013, he was charged with murder in regard to the death of a patient he had treated eight years previously.[12]


Afridi comes from a humble background and in 1990 graduated from the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar. He had been working as the doctor in-charge of Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The doctor has a family. Considered an American hero by many who believe his actions were altruistic, Afridi is currently serving a 33-year sentence in a Pakistani jail, convicted of charges unrelated to his alleged CIA connections. Sentenced for supporting a Pakistani warlord, many of Afridi's supporters appear to have abandoned him at home and abroad, including his alleged US supporters within the CIA and the Obama Administration.[13] He is a native of Khyber Agency.[14] In July 2011, Afridi was described as being in his late 40s. There are numerous online petitions and web pages dedicated to freeing him, such as the "Free Dr. Shakil Alfridi NOW" Facebook page with over 700 likes.[15]

Pakistan's accusations of Afridi[edit]

Colleagues at Jamrud Hospital in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber tribal were suspicious of Dr Afridi's, the hospital's chief surgeon, absences which he explained as "business" to attend to in Abbottabad. Dr Afridi was accused of having taken a half-dozen World Health Organization cooler boxes without authorisation. The containers are for inoculation campaigns, but no immunisation drives were underway in Abbottabad or the Khyber agency.[16][17]

On 6 October 2011, the Pakistani commission investigating Bin Laden's death recommended that he be charged with "conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason" on the basis of available evidence.[6] Pakistan seized Dr Afridi's assets.[18] Afridi's residence was sealed by Pakistani authorities and his family moved to an undisclosed location.[19] The 15 male and female health workers who assisted Dr Afridi in the fake hepatitis vaccination program were also declared not fit for any future employment.[20]

Pakistani investigators said in a July 2012 report that Afridi met 25 times with "foreign secret agents, received instructions and provided sensitive information to them."[21] According to Pakistani reports, Afridi told investigators that the charity Save the Children helped facilitate his meeting with US intelligence agents although the charity denies the charge. The report alleges that Save the Children's Pakistan director introduced Afridi to a western woman in Islamabad and that Afridi and the woman met regularly afterwards.[22][23][24]


In an interview with Fox News, Afridi described being routinely tortured by the ISI with cigarette burns and electric shocks while at ISI Headquarters at Abpara.[25] Citing "very strict security," Afridi's lawyer told BBC News that he had doubts of the authenticity of the interview.[26]

Family members and a member of his legal counsel also stated Dr Afridi had been tortured while in Pakistani custody during November 2012.[27] Waad ur Rahman, an Express Tribune blogger argues that through a fair trail, Afridi would also have a chance to defend that why did he not disclose the location of Osama Bin Laden to Pakistani authorities. He said, only denial of fair trial, makes him an absolute victim of law.[28]


On 28 May 2012, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said according to the law in Pakistan Dr. Afridi has the right to defend himself and should be granted access to higher courts.[29]

On 30 May 2012, Dr Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison for aiding banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam and not for his links to the CIA, as officials had said earlier, according to a court document.[30]

The court sentenced Afridi under the FCR act. According to the verdict, Afridi would serve 33 years in prison and has to pay Rs. 230,000 as a fine. He was initially detained at the Apbara headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Islamabad before being moved to a Peshawar Central Jail in May 2012.[25][31]

On 1 June 2012, Dr Afridi's lawyers appealed his conviction.[32][33]

On 29 August 2013, senior Pakistani judicial official Sahibzada Mohammad Anis issued a ruling that overturned Afridi's sentence and ordered him a retrial. This was due to the decision that the original person who sentenced the doctor was not authorised to hear the case.[11]

In mid-November 2013, the Reuters news agency reported that he had just been charged with murder in regard to the death, eight years earlier, of a patient he had treated.[34] In March 2015, Samiullah Khan Afridi, ex-lawyer of Dr Afridi was shot dead in Peshawar.[35] A Pakistani Taliban faction named Jamaatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for his murder.[36]

Hunger strike and current condition[edit]

In late November 2012 Pakistani news provider, The Express Tribune, reported that Dr Afridi had gone on a hunger strike protesting his prison conditions in the Peshawar jail. News also reported that regarding his treatment the US State Department had "made their views well known to Pakistan and the public at large.[37] In September 2012, a Washington-based correspondent for Fox News claimed that he had interviewed Dr Afridi by phone from inside the jail and spoke to him for 45 minutes.. Two prison guards were arrested and a senior prison official was sacked for allegedly providing Afridi cell phones and camera."

Reactions to arrest and sentencing[edit]

US response[edit]

The US Secretary of Defense, who was then CIA Chief Leon Panetta, has confirmed the role of Dr Afridi in ascertaining the whereabouts of Bin Laden inside the compound in Abbottabad. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Pakistan has no justification for holding Dr Afridi.[38] The U.S. Representative for the 48th District of California, Dana Rohrabacher asked President Barack Obama to intercede on Afridi's behalf,[39] introduced two bills, H.R. 4069 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Shakeel Afridi[40] and H.R. 3901 to declare Afridi a naturalised US citizen.[41]

The US Senate panel cut $33 million in aid to Pakistan over the conviction of Afridi: $1 million for each of the 33 years of Afridi's sentence.[42]

US authorities said that before his arrest, Dr Afridi turned down an opportunity to leave his country and resettle overseas with his family.[43] On 31 May 2012, US authorities said that they sought clarification from Pakistan on the issue of Dr Afridi's sentence.[44]

In September 2012, the US State Department said that they would consider a prisoner exchange for Afia Siddiqui but Pakistan refused the deal. America has said it can consider the exchange of Dr Afia Siddiqui with Dr Afridi but Pakistani ISI chief has denied the deal.[45]

In May 2015 Sy Hersh, one of the most respected journalist in U.S. history, identified Dr Afridi has been scapegoated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the State Department of the U.S. Government:

"In June 2011, it was reported in the New York Times, the Washington Post and all over the Pakistani press that Amir Aziz had been held for questioning in Pakistan; he was, it was said, a CIA informant who had been spying on the comings and goings at the bin Laden compound. Aziz was released, but the retired official said that US intelligence was unable to learn who leaked the highly classified information about his involvement with the mission. Officials in Washington decided they ‘could not take a chance that Aziz’s role in obtaining bin Laden’s DNA also would become known’. A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’ It was soon reported that the CIA had organised a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad with Afridi’s help in a failed attempt to obtain bin Laden’s DNA. Afridi’s legitimate medical operation was run independently of local health authorities, was well financed and offered free vaccinations against hepatitis B. Posters advertising the programme were displayed throughout the area. Afridi was later accused of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison because of his ties to an extremist. News of the CIA-sponsored programme created widespread anger in Pakistan, and led to the cancellation of other international vaccination programmes that were now seen as cover for American spying.

The retired official said that Afridi had been recruited long before the bin Laden mission as part of a separate intelligence effort to get information about suspected terrorists in Abbottabad and the surrounding area. ‘The plan was to use vaccinations as a way to get the blood of terrorism suspects in the villages.’ Afridi made no attempt to obtain DNA from the residents of the bin Laden compound. The report that he did so was a hurriedly put together ‘CIA cover story creating “facts”’ in a clumsy attempt to protect Aziz and his real mission. ‘Now we have the consequences,’ the retired official said. ‘A great humanitarian project to do something meaningful for the peasants has been compromised as a cynical hoax.’ Afridi’s conviction was overturned, but he remains in prison on a murder charge."[46]

James Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, stated that spy agencies should consider the consequences of using health care institutions for their own ends: “It is always important to disassociate public health missions from wartime or spy missions that could disrupt the bonds of community trust”. [47]

Protest by Aid Groups[edit]

Humanitarian organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières, protested the use of a medical charity for espionage purposes believing it would cause suspicion of such organisations in the future and endanger personnel working on such projects claiming 'threatened immunisation work around the world'.[48][49]

May 2012 the Access to Justice Through Legal Aid and Welfare Organisation Peshawar named a panel of lawyers to defend Dr Afridi in his appeal against his conviction.[50]

Lashkar-e-Islam reaction[edit]

On 31 May 2012, Lashkar-e-Islam militants said they had nothing to do with Afridi and would kill him given the chance. A commander in the militant organisation told the AFP, "We have no link to such a shameless man. If we see him we'll chew him alive."

The court said Afridi paid two million rupees ($21,000) to Lashkar-e-Islam and helped to provide medical assistance to militant commanders in Khyber. But the commander said the $21,000 was a fine imposed for over-charging patients. "Afridi and his fellow doctor were fleecing tribesmen, giving them fake medicines and doing fake surgeries. We had a lot of complaints against them and imposed a fine of two million rupees on them," he said. Local residents have also told AFP that Mangal Bagh fined Afridi for performing "unnecessary surgeries and over-charging" patients at his private clinic in the town of Bara.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roul, Animesh. "THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST POLIO VACCINATION". Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Roul, Animesh. "THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST POLIO VACCINATION". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Bin Laden death: 'CIA doctor' accused of treason". BBC News. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Pakistan holds doctor who tried to collect bin Laden DNA". McClatchy DC. 
  5. ^ "The Killing of Osama bin Laden". LRB. 12 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Pakistan: Doctor Who Aided C.I.A. Should Face Charges, Panel Says". The New York Times. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Pakistani doctor accused of helping U.S. gets 33 years in prison". CNN. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Dr Shakil Afridi jailed for 'militant links'". The Express Tribune. AFP. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Pakistan doctor Shakil Afridi guilty of militancy, not CIA links". The Times of India. 30 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Dr Shakil Afridi appeals conviction: Charity". The Express Tribune. AFP. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Pakistan overturns prison sentence for doctor who helped CIA get Bin Laden". Fox News. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. find bin Laden charged with murder". Reuters. 22 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Mir, Amir (8 February 2012). "Pakistan snubs US over Osama informer". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  14. ^ ANALYSIS: Dr Shakil Afridi —Faruhat Taj
  15. ^ Saeed Shah (12 July 2011). "US pressures Islamabad to free doctor who helped CIA track down Bin Laden". The Guardian. 
  16. ^ The Pakistani Doctor Who Helped the CIA Nail Bin Laden
  17. ^ "Abbottabad Commission orders treason case against Dr Afridi". The News International, Pakistan. 30 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "Shakeel Afridi's assets siezed: sources". 
  19. ^ Dr Shakeel Afridi’s residence sealed in Peshawar
  20. ^ KP govt disqualifies Dr Shakil Afridi for job
  21. ^ Leiby, Richard (26 July 2012). "Pakistan recounts in new report how doctor helped U.S. in bin Laden operation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  22. ^ Boone, Jon (5 September 2012). "Pakistan orders Save the Children foreign workers to leave". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Save the Children foreign staff told to leave Pakistan
  24. ^ "Save the Children foreign staff ordered out of Pakistan". BBC News. 
  25. ^ a b Di Natale, Dominic (10 September 2012). "EXCLUSIVE: Jailed doc who helped nail Bin Laden warns Pakistan sees U.S. as 'worst enemy'". FOX News Network. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "Bin Laden raid doctor Shakil Afridi speaks out". BBC News. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  27. ^ "Hero doctor who helped nail Bin Laden tortured in Pakistani prison says family". Fox News. FOX. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "Give Shakeel Afridi a Fair Trial". Express Tribune. 9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  29. ^ Dr Shakil Afridi has the right to defend himself: PM Gilani The News International, 29 May 2012
  30. ^ Dr Shakil Afridi jailed for ties with Lashkar-e-Islam: court Geo News Pakistan, 30 May 2012
  31. ^ "'Bin Laden doctor' jailed for 'fighter links'." Al Jazeera, 30 May 2012.
  32. ^ Lawyers appeal Dr Shakil Afridi's conviction, Geo News, 1 June 2012
  33. ^ Dr Shakil Afridi challenges conviction in FCR Commissioner court, The News, 2 June 2012
  34. ^ "Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. find bin Laden charged with murder". Reuters. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  35. ^ "Ex-lawyer of 'Bin Laden hunt' doctor killed in Pakistan". 
  36. ^
  37. ^ "In wake of Shakil Afridi's hunger strike, US reiterates calls for his release". The Express Tribune. 
  38. ^ "No justification to detain Dr Shakil". The News International, Pakistan. 1 March 2012. 
  39. ^ "US Congressman to Obama: Don't abandon doctor who helped CIA". 
  40. ^ "H.R.4069: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Shakeel Afridi. - U.S. Congress - OpenCongress". 
  41. ^ H. R. 3901
  42. ^ US Senate panel cut $33m in aid to Pak
  43. ^ Afridi in OBL hunt rejected US escape: officials Geo News Pakistan, 30 May 2012
  44. ^ US seeks clarity on Dr Afridi reports The News International, 31 May 2012
  45. ^ ISI chief rules out Dr Shakil Afridi, Dr Afia Siddiqui swap deal
  46. ^ Hersh, Seymour (2015). "The Killing of Osama bin Laden". London Review of Books 37 (10): 3–12. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  47. ^ The NSA Plan to Find Bin Laden by Hiding Tracking Devices in Medical Supplies, The Intercept, 21 May 2015
  48. ^ Saeed Shah (14 July 2011). "CIA's fake vaccination programme criticised by Médecins Sans Frontières". The Guardian. 
  49. ^ "Aid groups protest to CIA over bin Laden scheme". McClatchy DC. 
  50. ^ NGO names lawyers' panel to defend Dr Shakil Afridi The News International, 30 May 2012
  51. ^ "Militants deny link with Dr Shakil Afridi". AFP. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 

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