Prison rules relaxed for Dr Shakil: counsel

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Shafaqna Pakistan: The family members of Dr Shakil Afridi have pinned hopes on Prime Minister Imran Khan after his recent visit to the US as they claim prison authorities have now relaxed rules for the high-profile prisoner.

We have noticed some change in the behaviour of prison authorities towards him [Dr Shakil Afridi] after the recent visit of the prime minister to the US,” said his lawyer Qamar Nadeem Afridi while quoting the Dr Shakil Afridi’s brother Jamil Afridi and other family members.

He said the family members felt a change in the attitude of the authorities at the Sahiwal prison where Dr Shakil Afridi is being held after being transferred there from Central Prison Peshawar. They expressed happiness over this development.

The lawyer maintained that earlier the prison authorities treated Dr Shakil Afridi badly, but the rules were relaxed after Imran Khan’s visit to the US.

However, a prison official, requesting anonymity, dismissed the impression of easing restrictions on Afridi. He told The News the entire matter was in the judicial ambit which shows it was not possible for the jail authorities to extend any concessions to the convict.

Replying to a question by an American TV channel during his US visit about swap of Dr Shakil Afridi and Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the prime minister stated it was a sensitive issue as Dr Shakil Afridi was considered a spy in Pakistan.

“We also have someone in US prison, called Aafia Siddiqui and we could negotiate a swap,” the prime minster told the interviewer.

Dr Shakil Afridi, a former agency surgeon in Khyber tribal district, was picked up by the personnel of an intelligence agency in May 2011 on charges of helping the CIA to trace al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden through a fake vaccination campaign.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui was convicted by a US court in 2010 on multiple charges including attempted murder and assault on US personnel. She has been undergoing 86-year prison sentence.

Qamar Nadeem Afridi told The News that appeal of Dr Shakil Afridi was pending before the Peshawar High Court (PHC) and it had fixed September 24 for regular hearing of the case.

He believed that the case of the prosecution was weak as it lacked solid proof. He hoped Dr Shakil Afridi had a good chance of being acquitted by the high court after hearing his appeal.

A petition filed by Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s sister Fauzia Siddiqui has been pending before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. She is seeking directives for the government to negotiate with the US for her transfer to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a contempt of court petition was filed on Tuesday in the PHC against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The petitioner claimed that Dr Shakil Afridi could not be transferred to another country keeping in view the orders of the PHC. The petition was filed by Muhammad Khurshid Khan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Attorney General of Pakistan.

The petitioner made the federal government through the principal secretary to the prime minister, secretary Foreign Affairs and secretary Interior Ministry as parties in the petition.

In the two-page petition to which the order of the PHC was attached, the petitioner submitted that Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview to an American TV channel during his US visit said that Dr Shakil Afridi could be swapped for Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The petitioner submitted before the court that the statement of the prime minister amounted to contempt of court in the light of the Peshawar High Court orders restraining the federal government from handing over Dr Shakil Afridi to any other country.