Will Imran Khan swap Dr Afia Siddiqui with Dr Shakil Afridi?
ISLAMABAD - An influential group of British Pakistanis has been negotiating with PM elect Imran Khan and senior military figures to arrange a prisoner swap involving Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA track the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, and Dr Aafia Siddiqui, convicted of attempting to kill two American military personnel, reported *The Guardian.* link
While on the election trail, Khan, who heads the Tehreek-e-Insaf party which won the largest number of seats, and is due to be sworn in as prime minister on August 11, announced that he would secure Siddiqui’s repatriation.
The initiative to achieve this is being led by a British peer, Nazir Ahmed, who is to visit Pakistan soon for discussions with the powerful military leadership, which is likely to have the final say. Ahmed, who is closely connected to the Pakistani establishment, said: “The Americans are desperate for the release of Dr Afridi and to take him to their country, while the Pakistani public want Dr Siddiqui to come home. There have been some very positive developments in our discussions with the Pakistani military leadership.
They are very receptive to the idea of striking a deal with the Americans and so is Pakistan’s political leadership. They actually came close to it a while ago but it fell through because of other factors. It’s just a question of timing, but I’m very confident that an exchange can be arranged.”
Siddiqui, 46, is being held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, a federal prison for those with mental health needs, after being sentenced to 86 years’ imprisonment in 2010. The Americans accused her of being an al-Qaida “facilitator” who was plotting attacks in New York. For five years before her arrest in 2008, they alleged that they did not know of her whereabouts, declaring her one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists.
Afridi, 56, was sentenced in 2013 to 33 years’ imprisonment for treason. He ran a bogus hepatitis B vaccination campaign for the CIA in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, collecting DNA samples that allowed it to locate Bin Laden, but was charged with other terrorism-related offences. His sentence was later reduced to 23 years, which he is appealing against from prison in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.