WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has said had he been the president now, he would have released Dr Shakil Afridi in a “give and take” deal.
In an interview to Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren, Musharraf also noted that relations between the United States and Pakistan were at their “lowest ebb” now.
“Well, with a deal, yes. With a deal,” said the retired general when asked if he was the president now, would he release Afridi. “A deal, is a give and take. Yes, indeed it can be resolved. I don’t think it is such a serious thing that it cannot be resolved,” he added.
Dr Afridi, who helped the CIA locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, has been in prison in Pakistan since 2011. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged before a congressional committee that he would continue to work “diligently” to get Afridi out of prison.
US lawmakers have urged the Trump administration to bring Afridi to the United States where he is considered a hero.
Defending Pakistan’s position on Afridi, Musharraf said every nation had to make policies in accordance with its interests.
He acknowledged that Pakistan’s policy in this case was an “irritant to the United States but Washington would have probably done the same if faced with a similar situation. “Purely on the merits of the case, ... would you allow… a US citizen dealing with the ISI on a very, very sensitive issue of national importance to the United States?” he asked.
One possibility Musharraf indicated in the interview was exchanging Afridi for Mullah Fazlullah. “We can resolve this irritant and exchange more accommodating stance from the United States… and Afghanistan because we have a terrorist sitting there, Fazlullah,” he said.
“I suppose the United States also knows that he’s there.”
Further exploring the possibilities for improving America’s relations with Pakistan, he urged Washington to listen to Islamabad’s grievances and advised Islamabad to pay attention to America’s complaints about the Haqqani network. “We need to sit down and resolve these issues,” he said.
Washington claims that Pakistan has allowed the Haqqani network to use its territories for carrying out operations in Afghanistan and has greatly reduced its financial assistance to Pakistan over this issue.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018