• Friday, May 24, 2024


Pakistan denies identity papers to family of doctor who helped trace bin Laden


Pakistan has denied identity cards to the family of Shakeel Afridi, the jailed doctor believed to have helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden in 2011, blocking college enrolment for his children, their lawyer said on Friday (3).

Afridi was accused of treason after word spread that he had helped the CIA collect DNA samples of the bin Laden family, paving the way for a secret US Navy Seal raid that killed the al Qaeda leader in the town of Abbottabad.

He was arrested days after the US operation – which Pakistan protested as a violation of sovereignty – and charged with aiding militants.

Now his 19-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son have been denied national identity cards, essential documents for Pakistanis, said Qamar Nadeem, the family’s lawyer in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Nadeem said Afridi’s children required identity cards for college enrolment, but authorities refused to issue them because their father had been barred from leaving the country.

“Afridi is in jail and his name has been put on the exit control list,” Nadeem said. “I don’t understand how he can escape from jail and leave the country.”

The lawyer said he had received no response to his letters to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which issues the cards, and the interior ministry.

“Getting an identity card is a fundamental right of every citizen and if NADRA or the interior ministry refuse to issue them, we will approach the Peshawar High Court for justice.”

An interior ministry spokesman said it had not blocked the application. Media were unable to reach representatives of the database authority for comment.

Last May, Pakistan’s foreign ministry angrily criticised US President Donald Trump for a comment during his election campaign that he could get Pakistan to free Afridi “within two minutes”.

After Trump was inaugurated last month, Pakistan’s law minister vowed not to release Afridi despite any US pressure.

Afridi’s wife Imrana Ghafoor has been living at a secret location with her two sons and a daughter, for security reasons.

Afridi’s lawyers have also received threats from militant groups. One of his lawyers, Samiullah Afridi, was gunned down by unknown men in Peshawar in March 2015.

Nadeem is now the sole lawyer willing to represent Afridi.

Afridi, initially charged with having links to militant groups, was sentenced to a 33-year jail term, but his conviction was overturned in 2013. Pakistan then charged the doctor with the death of a patient dating from eight years earlier.

Related Stories