Dr. Shakil Afridi is a heroic doctor whom many believe helped the United States locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
For his assistance, he was arrested on treason charges and has been forced to rot in prison for nearly six years.
But Donald Trump may be about to cement an unheard of deal that could save his life.
Some Republicans have made attempts to free Afridi.
Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation to freeze U.S. aid to Pakistan unless Afridi was freed.
Harry Reid blocked the legislation from even coming up for a vote.
But last year, the House of Representatives passed a defense budget that included provisions to make Pakistan’s nearly half-a-billion dollars in aid contingent upon them cracking down on terrorist networks.
The legislation also included language calling for the doctor’s freedom.
And now reports are surfacing – thanks to a change in power in both Washington and Pakistan – that Afridi may be free within months.
Fox News reports:
“Negotiations to release Shakil Afridi – the hero doctor who helped the CIA pinpoint Usama Bin Laden – have gained momentum the past few weeks and he could be released as early as May, multiple sources told Fox News.
Afridi has been languishing in a Pakistani jail for five-and-a-half years. According to an Islamabad official, talks about Afridi’s possible release gained steam toward the end of last year and there has been a renewed willingness to figure out an appropriate time and means to have the doctor – who is said to be declining in health – discharged.
Another well-placed source, a U.S intelligence government contractor, told Fox News that there is a lot of “backroom dealing” between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army on the matter. The two parties are negotiating concessions, with a release possible in around three to four months. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the newly-appointed ISI Chief, Naveed Mukhtar, are said to have both asked for immunity for Afridi. But before that could move forward it needs approval from the Army Chief of Operations, Gen. Waseem Ashraf.
The former military leader, Gen. Raheel Sharif, retired late last year and the power shift now to Ashraf has delayed the process.
“Ultimately, Gen. Ashraf decides Afridi’s status,” the source noted.”
Afridi was able to help the U.S. obtain Osama bin Laden’s location by obtaining the family’s DNA.
He conducted a vaccination program which the government used to pinpoint bin Laden’s whereabouts.
And for his help, he faced treason charges and was sentenced to 33 years in prison for supposed connections to militant groups.
Some experts point out that keeping Afridi in prison sends a warning signal to those who could help the U.S. that they will be abandoned if their involvement was found out.
But freeing him would be a notice that the United States always remembers its friends.
Fox News also reported:
“Supna Zaidi, founder and executive director of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, stressed that the U.S cannot forget Afridi and pointed out the broader implications his release would have on foreign policy.
“By securing Afridi’s release,” she said, “future cooperation from the international community is more likely because the U.S. will have maintained a reputation of not abandoning men and women, like Afridi, once a security issue is resolved.”