US needs to respect Pakistan's legal process in Shakil Afridi case: FM Qureshi

Published October 1, 2018
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. — Photo courtesy Fox News
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. — Photo courtesy Fox News

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan expects the United States to "respect our legal process as we respect yours" while speaking on the imprisonment of Dr Shakil Afridi, who was convicted by a tribal court in 2012.

FM Qureshi was speaking to Fox News on Sunday during his official visit to the US.

Dr Afridi was jailed for 33 years in May 2012 after he was convicted over links with militants, a charge he has denied. He had been taken into custody soon after the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US commandoes in Abbottabad in May 2011. He was accused of helping the CIA track down the Al Qaeda leader in Abbottabad.

Many in the US, however, had raised questions about his due process under the tribal system.

Speaking to Fox, Queshi said that the issue surrounding Afridi was not over as “openings are always there [to discuss the matter further]”, adding that the the prisoner's fate lies with the courts and not in politics.

“We have a legal process. Afridi went through that legal process, he was given a fair chance to plead his case. He was sentenced, he was convicted and is serving a sentence,” Qureshi was quoted as saying.

Qureshi acknowledged that relations with the US have "soured" since US President Donald Trump took office and increased pressure on Pakistan.

“When you are in a difficult situation you look for scapegoats, for areas and people and institutions that have not delivered to your expectations,” he was quoted as saying.

“Pakistan is there to help and facilitate; we recognise that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our interest."

Qureshi also made it clear that he was not in the US "to collect dollars and cents".

“I am here to fix a relationship that went sour — a relationship that has mutually-benefited both sides," he said. "We have been allies for a long time — it is time to rebuild that powerful relationship."

FM Qureshi arrived in Washington DC on Sunday for talks on bilateral relations with US officials following his trip to New York for the United Nation's General Assembly session.

In addition to his planned meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, FM Qureshi will also hold a meeting with the country's National Security Adviser (NSA) John Bolton at the White House.

Pompeo and Qureshi first met in Islamabad early in September when the US government approached the new Pakistani government to discuss key issues that have strained decades-old ties between the two countries.

In a briefing about his earlier meeting, Pompeo said that, following the election of Prime Minister Imran Khan in July, the US "wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries".

It was during his Islamabad visit that Pompeo invited the Pakistani foreign minister to visit Washington for further talks.

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