By Robert Fisk
The Long View: Are the Pakistanis being so dastardly when they lock up a national who has helped in a murder?
La Clinton hath spoken. Thirty-three million smackers lopped off Pakistan’s aid budget because its spooks banged up poor old Dr Shakeel Afridi for 33 years after a secret trial. And, as the world knows, Dr Afridi’s crime was to confirm the presence of that old has-been Osama bin Laden in his grotty Abbottabad villa.
Well, that will teach the Pakistanis to mess around with a brave doctor who is prepared to help the American institution that tortures and murders its enemies. Forget the CIA’s black prisons and rendition and water-boarding, and the torture of the innocents in the jails of our friendly dictators. Dr Afridi was just doing the free world a favour. And WOW, Dr Afridi got shopped by Leon Pannetta when he was CIA boss, and now Barack Obama is accused of letting him down.
Well, I pause here. Dr Afridi was brought before a secret trial in the Khyber tribal area – no charge sheets, no lawyers, no statements from the defendant or the prosecution, just a measly accusation of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and “high treason”. I’ve never known the difference between “treason” and “high treason” but – since Pakistan’s security apparatus is a mirror image of the British Empire – I assume it was invented by us. “High treason” means treason against the monarch. By fingering Bin Laden, after using a ruse about vaccinating his family against hepatitis B to gain access to him, Dr Afridi was committing treason against King Asif Ali Zardari, otherwise known as the President of Pakistan.
But hold on a moment. Let’s suppose Vladimir Putin sent a KGB/FSB hit squad to Britain to murder a former agent called Alexander Litvinenko who had turned against his old spymasters. And let’s suppose that the Russians murdered Litvinenko. Which – in real life – they did. And Litvinenko – in real life – was indeed a trusted agent of the Russians, just as Bin Laden was a much-admired servant of the CIA when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.
Getting a bit close to home? Well, let’s go a stage further. Supposing Litvinenko was murdered after being identified by a friendly British GP – working for the KGB/FSB – who vaccinated the Berezovsky family against hep B. What do Messrs Cameron and Clegg and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord High Executioner and all the other nabobs do? Do they accuse the British GP of treason, clap him in irons, stage a hush-hush trial covered by the Official Secrets Act and send the chap off to rot in the Tower of London for – say – 33 years?
Or do they accept a bribe from Moscow of, say, $33m (£21m) to let the GP out of jug so he can potter off to Moscow to be given a new home and restart his career as a doktor for the nomenklatura?
In other words, are the Pakistanis being so dastardly when they lock up a national who has helped a foreign power murder an exile inside his own country of Pakistan? And, more to the point, wouldn’t we do the same?
And let’s take the story of hypocrisy a stage further. Wasn’t there a brave Israeli citizen called Mordechai Vanunu, who, in opposition to the nuclear weapons that his country was amassing in secret, spoke out to the world about this outrageous threat to international world order and was subsequently kidnapped from Italy by intelligence agents, tried in Israel for “treason” – in secret, of course – and spent 18 years in prison? Now I grant you that’s 15 years shorter than poor old Dr Afridi, but Vanunu still lives under grave restrictions to his liberty and has twice been imprisoned again for the heinous crime of chatting to foreign journalists.
And has La Clinton threatened to suspend a single dollar of Israel’s annual $3bn in aid from the United States for the next 33 years in order to protest Israel’s treatment of Vanunu? Not to mention – not even to utter the words – Sabra and Chatila, Gaza, a 45-year occupation, illegal colonisation of West Bank land, etc, etc, or, indeed, for producing nuclear weapons. And we absolutely must not mention Jonathan Pollard, the former CIA and US Navy intelligence officer sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. For if Pollard is not released, is Israel threatening to cut its aid to America? Hold on, that doesn’t quite compute, does it? But you get the point.
It’s about hypocrisy. Sure, Pakistan is a corrupt country. Sure, it is corrupt from the shoeshiner up to the pinnacles of power. But I suppose in the end, if you’re going to prostitute yourself to America – financially and militarily, as Pakistan has done for decades – that’s the price you pay. Which is why hypocrisy will win. For Dr Afridi, I predict, will be quietly given a substantial reduction in his sentence, will be released – or disappear – from his Pakistani prison and, in a few months/ years, when Zardari has scored enough points from Dr Afridi’s imprisonment, the good doctor will pop up in the US with a fine medical practice and the pleasure of knowing – of course – that La Clinton has re-endowed Pakistan with its missing $33m.Show