PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has expressed concern over what it believes are serious threats to life of Dr Shakil Afridi in the Peshawar Central Prison and has asked the federal government to shift him to a secure place outside the province.
“We received reports from security agencies that some people have been trying to either kill Dr Shakil or poison him in the jail. Though we have taken all possible measures to protect him, but one can’t ensure 100 per cent security to the prisoners,” a senior government official told this correspondent.
Dr Shakil Afridi had allegedly helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad by running three fake vaccination campaigns. Pleading anonymity, the official said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had more than 1,000 prisoners convicted under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) languishing in different jails of the province, but only Dr Afridi has become a ‘real problem’ for them due to nature of the charges against him. “It’s not a joke. His life is really in danger from hardcore militants languishing in the same prison even though he has been kept in solitary confinement. We have taken up this issue several times with the federal government, particularly with the Interior Ministry, to think about him but they did not take it seriously,” the government official said.
He said Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti too had raised the issue with the former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani and Rahman Malik to help the provincial government handle Dr Afridi’s issue but they failed to extend any help despite making promises.
The official said the government had enhanced security at the Peshawar Central Prison in general and for Dr Afridi in particular after it received reports from intelligence agencies about potential threats to his life. He argued that since Dr Afridi was convicted under the FCR it was the responsibility of the federation to handle him.
The official said the provincial government had even approached Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and requested him to shift Dr Afridi to a secure jail in Punjab, but he did not respond.
Dr Afridi was earlier charged with running a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in April 2011 to help CIA collect DNA samples of Osama bin Laden and his family members in their Bilal Town residence.
However, the court of assistant political agent, Bara subdivision later formally convicted him for helping the Bara-based militants led by Mangal Bagh and awarded him 33 years imprisonment.
He has been kept in the British-era prison in Peshawar where hundreds of militants arrested during military operations have also been held and the provincial government is afraid that these dangerous prisoners could try to eliminate him.
After the Bannu jailbreak incident in which hundreds of Taliban militants helped around 400 prisoners, some of them militants, to escape, the government is seriously worried about security of the prisons where militants are being held.
The Abbottabad Commission headed by Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has already recommended Dr Afridi’s trial for treason. No formal charge has been brought against him for helping the CIA in the fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad.