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November 23, 2018

FO clears confusion over Pak-US info sharing, Afridi arrest

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November 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: There is an apparent confusion about Pakistan’s stance on detained US-spy Shakil Afridi after the fresh statement of Foreign Office (FO) on the country’s intelligence cooperation with the United States leading to the eventual killing of Osma Bin Laden in May 2011.

However, the FO is clear that the issue of Pakistan’s initial intelligence sharing is different from the country’s position on Shakil Afridi who spied for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) breaking Pakistani law. “Our position is clear. These are two different matters,” the FO Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal told The News on Thursday.

When asked about confusion, he said the statement should be read carefully as it only says that “it was Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation that provided the initial evidence to trace the whereabouts of OBL.” On the other hand, the spokesman said, Shakil Afridi was caught red-handed while spying in the guise of administering polio drops for the NGO ‘Save the Children’.

He added that Afridi broke Pakistan’s law. Dr Faisal said Pakistan has 40-year history of intelligence with the US. Former President Pervez Musharraf had even shared Pakistan’s Shamsi airbase with the US forces during their invasion of Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks. In a statement that shocked many, the FO admitted on Tuesday that Pakistan had played a role in helping the US locate and kill bin Laden. The statement said Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua summoned US Chargé d’Affaires Paul Jones to the Foreign Office and registered a strong protest on “unwarranted and unsubstantiated” allegations made against Pakistan by President Trump.

However the spokesman clarified that the Tuesday’s statement by FO referred to initial intelligence sharing by Pakistan. This is not the first time Pakistan claimed credit for OBL operation. Asif Ali Zardari, the then President of Pakistan, had also written an article in the US newspaper The Washington Post soon after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In his article, the former President had also claimed that Pakistan’s cooperation played important role in elimination of OBL. “Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day,” wrote Zardari.

While announcing OBL’s killing, President Barack Obama had also noted: “Our (US) counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.”

However, immediately after the US Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan had complained that the United States did not share details of the operation with the civil and military leadership of the country. Dr Afridi was arrested immediately after the US operation on the charges of treason as it was revealed that he had been running a fake vaccine programme which helped the CIA confirm the al-Qaeda leader’s presence in the city of Abbottabad, paving the way for the US Navy SEAL raid.

The continued imprisonment of Dr Shakil Afridi has long been a source of tension between Pakistan and the US.

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