Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf has said that he would have released imprisoned Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped CIA track down Osama bin Laden in 2011, in exchange for TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah in a “give and take” deal with the US had he been the president. Afridi was arrested after Laden was killed in a covert US raid at a compound in Pakistan’s Abbotabad city on May 2, 2011. The US has been asking Pakistan to release him. Dawn reported from Washington that Musharraf, 74, in an interview to Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren said that relations between the US and Pakistan were at their “lowest ebb” now. “Well, with a deal, yes,” 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,” Musharraf said.
Afridi has been languishing 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 US 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. 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”, he said. “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 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Fazlullah. “We can resolve this irritant and exchange more accommodating stance from the US… and Afghanistan because we have a terrorist sitting there, Fazlullah. I suppose the United States also knows that he’s there,” Musharraf said.
He urged Washington to listen to Islamabad’s grievances and advised Islamabad to pay attention to America’s complaints about the Haqqani terror network. “We need to sit down and resolve these issues,” he said. The US claims that Pakistan has allowed the Haqqani terror network to use its territories for carrying out operations in Afghanistan and has greatly reduced its financial assistance to Pakistan over this issue.
Between 1999-2008, Musharraf had handed over several al-Qaeda and Taliban militants to the US. Fazlullah, nicknamed the “Radio Mullah”, is said to be in contact with the Peshawar school attackers during the assault that left 154 people dead, mostly school children on December 16, 2014.