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‘Shakil Afridi can be released in exchange for Aafia Siddiqui’

July 23, 2019
 

Pakistan can negotiate the release of Dr Shakil Afridi if the US is willing to release Aafia Siddiqui, said Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with the Fox News on Monday. 

Dr Afridi was taken into custody soon after the Al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a raid on his Abbottabad compound on May 2, 2011. According to reports, Afridi had helped the US find him by collecting DNA samples of Bin Laden’s family through a fake polio campaign. Afridi was sentenced to 33 years for involvement in anti-state activities by a tribal court in 2012.

“He [Dr Afridi] is considered a spy for the US,” said the prime minister. “We felt that we are an ally of the US. If we had been given the information about Bin Laden, then we should have taken him out.” At the time, it embarrassed Pakistan. We were an ally of the US, and they didn’t trust us. He remarked that the ISI gave the CIA information about Bin Laden’s initial location.

Related: Pakistan is helping the US in the Afghan peace process: Trump

When asked why he can’t take release the prisoner, the PM said that there are some decisions that even a premier can’t make because of the opposition. He, however, said that Dr Afridi’s release can be negotiated. “If the US is willing to release Afia Siddiqui, then we can talk about a prisoner swap.”

Dr Siddiqui, an MIT graduate, allegedly went missing for five years before she was discovered in Afghanistan. It is believed that she snatched a gun during an interrogation in Afghanistan and tried to shoot a US soldier. She has been accused of working for the Al-Qaeda too. On September 23, 2010, a New York court sentenced Dr Siddiqui to 86 years in prison.

On relations with India, PM Khan said that a nuclear war can never be the option. “The idea of nuclear war itself is self-destruction.” He remarked that the US is the only country that can resolve the Kashmir dispute, which is the main source of contention between India and Pakistan. “The only reason for 70 years, that we have not been able to live like civilised neighbors, is because of Kashmir.” He added, “I really feel that India should come on the table too. The US could play a big part, President Trump certainly can play a big part. We’re talking about 1.3 billion people on this Earth. Imagine the dividends of peace if somehow that issue could be resolved.”

Related: No deal on cards to swap Shakil Afridi with Aafia Siddiqui, says FO

PM Khan and President Trump in their meeting vowed to hasten the process for peace in Afghanistan. “The people of Afghanistan have seen four decades of violence,” said PM Khan. “Taliban should become a part of the political process so then you have a government that is representative of the people of Afghanistan.” He said that if there is a stable government in Afghanistan then it would ensure that small factions don’t emerge and pose a threat to other countries, such as the US. “Pakistan will do anything to ensure that the peace process moves forward,” he added.

He remarked that he hopes that the tensions between the US and Iran don’t turn into a full-blown conflict. “We would love to help the US if we are asked. We have one of the most professional armies, along with a comprehensive command and control of our nuclear weapons, he said.

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