A Pakistani court has found Shakil Afridi—the Pakistani physician who was instrumental in helping the CIA confirm the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden—guilty of treason. For his crimes—for doing what the Pakistani government should have done years ago—Afridi has been sentenced to 33 years in prison. Although Washington has politely requested Afridi’s release, there appears to be no action or force behind the diplomatic niceties. In fact, it appears Washington has kicked another friend to the curb. Sadly, this has become a common occurrence in the Age of Obama.
Before getting into the full litany of the president’s “oh well” approach to friends and allies, let’s stay with the Afridi situation for a moment. First, on its face, this is a travesty of justice—even according to Pakistani law. After all, if this man is guilty of treason for collaborating with the CIA, what about the Pakistani military’s on-again-off-again collaboration with the CIA and DoD? Are Pakistan’s president and generals going to be jailed for decades for their cooperation—albeit halfhearted or perhaps quarter-hearted—with Washington?
More importantly, we shouldn’t lose sight of the central fact that Afridi helped bring the world’s most notorious, most wanted, most infamous mass-murderer to justice. The trial of Afridi and the verdict reveal just how broken Pakistan is—something many observers, including myself, have pointed out for many years (here, here, here and here). If the best we can hope for is a transactional, interests-only relationship with Islamabad, then someone in the Obama administration needs to ask—amid Pakistan’s treatment of Afridi, sheltering of bin Laden, aiding of the Haqqani network and Taliban, outing of U.S. operatives, blockading of Afghanistan-bound equipment, firing on U.S. forces across the AfPak border—what exactly the United States is getting in the exchange.
If Washington had a sense of honor, it would demand Afridi’s release by a date certain and allow Islamabad to contemplate the consequences of not complying—a cutoff in aid, an expulsion of Pakistan’s diplomatic corps, a public unveiling and shaming of Pakistan’s duplicitous military-intelligence apparatus, another U.S. raid into the country.
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