File photo shows Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who ran a 'fake' polio campaign to facilitate US spy agencies in tracking down Osama bin laden to the compound in Abbottabad.—File Photo

ABBOTTABAD: The Peshawar High Court’s Abbottabad bench has ordered to restore the services of 17 health workers terminated for their involvement in a fake polio vaccination campaign that helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a defense lawyer said Thursday.

A two-member bench of the court comprising Justice Yayha Afridi and Justice Seth Waqar Ahmed accepted the writ petition by 14 complainants filed in April 2012 pleading to set aside the orders of the Secretary Health Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The KP Secretary Health on Feb 21 had terminated the services of the health workers, 16 women and one man, for working under Dr Shakil Afridi on a fake polio vaccination campaign which helped the CIA track down the al Qaeda chief.

The 17 health workers had pleaded not guilty, claiming they were unaware of Afridi’s intentions and were simply following orders.

Counsel for the petitioners, Advocate Sajid Ali Awan told Dawn.com that the court had accepted their plea in which it was asked to declare the KPK Health Department’s termination orders as null and void.

“The court has also directed the EDO Health to act lawfully and take lawful measures after accepting our petition which is simple restoration of the employees as their termination without a show cause notice was against the law,” he said.

“On acceptance of this writ petition, the notification dated Feb 21, 2102 issued by the respondents may be declared null and void and should be set aside, being a violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners, and all the petitioners may be reinstated with past full benefits,” said the lawyer reading out the court’s order.

Awan further claimed that health department officials had failed to justify the termination of his clients.

A written order is yet to be issued in this regard by the court.

Dr Shakil Afridi, who facilitated US spy agencies in tracking down bin Laden, is already serving a sentence of 33 years in jail under the Frontier Crimes Regulations by a tribal court in Bara, Khyber agency. He was found guilty for having links to anti-Pakistan militant elements in Khyber tribal region.

Afridi is contesting the sentence in the court of FCR commissioner and presently kept in a solitary confinement cell in Central Prison, Peshawar.

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