RAWALPINDI, May 26: Retired military officers have defended the conviction of Dr Shakil Afridi for helping CIA trace Osama bin Laden, arguing that the United States punished Kashmiri leader Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai on charges of working for the ISI.

Dr Afridi, a physician charged with assisting the CIA in obtaining DNA samples of Bin Laden’s family members through a fake vaccination campaign, was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a tribal court for his involvement in anti-state activities.

A meeting of the Pakistan Ex-servicemen Association held on Saturday agreed that Dr Afridi had been rightly sentenced for spying for the CIA and said US statements on the issue were based on ‘duplicity’ and ‘blackmailing’.

“How come the US convicts Dr Fai in a crime and declares Dr Afridi innocent for the same offence;” the retired officers said, adding that the American stance over the issue would further affect relations between the two countries.

The meeting was attended by Lt-Gen Ali Kuli Khan, air chief marshal Kaleem Saadat, air marshal Masood Akhtar, vice-admiral Ahmad Tasnim, Lt-Gen Naeem Akbar, former ambassador Salim Nawaz Gandapur, Brig Mian Mahmud and Brig Syed Masudul Hassan.

They noted that anti-Pakistan measures and inordinate delay in offering apology for the Salala massacre were clear indications that the Americans were intending to aim guns at Pakistan. They urged the parliament to take people into confidence on the prevailing crises.

“Our Foreign Office should have advised President Asif Ali Zardari against attending the Chicago conference as US President Obama and leaders of other major Nato countries couldn’t spare time for formal meetings with him,” said a statement issued after the meeting. The ex-servicemen said US’s support for separatist movements was aimed at balkanisation of Pakistan. The Americans wanted to contain China by building up India as regional power and nuclear Pakistan was being considered as hurdle, they said.

“Nato containers have been enjoying free rides for 11 years, causing damage worth billions of rupees to infrastructure, and now our demand for charges is being termed as extortion which proves that bilateral relations have reached their lowest ebb,” the retired officers asserted.

They said the US had placed its cards on the table. “It is now for the people of Pakistan to decide whether they would like to keep standing as a free nation or go down on their knees begging for mercy and a fistful of dollars.”

The ex-servicemen termed the invasion of Afghanistan a declaration of war against Pakistan with a view to achieving their nefarious objectives.

“Having failed to achieve these objectives over the past 11 years, they are now acting in desperation to complete the job by 2014,” the meeting observed.

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