Pakistan court orders jobs reinstated for 'CIA' medics

The court order does not relate to surgeon Shakeel Afridi, who was jailed for 33 years for treason. (Courtesy: AP)

A Pakistani court has ordered the authorities to reinstate the jobs of 17 health workers sacked over CIA efforts to track down Osama bin Laden, officials said Friday.

The order was made Thursday in the northwestern town of Abbottabad, where bin Laden was found and shot dead by U.S. Special Forces in May 2011.

"We will formally reinstate them after receiving written court orders," Mohammad Qasim, an Abbottabad district health officer, told AFP.

The 17 medics worked on the same fake vaccination programme set up by the CIA in a bid to confirm that bin Laden was living in the city.

Fifteen women health workers were dismissed in August 2011, and a woman doctor and an assistant coordinator were sacked in March 2012.

Shakeel Afridi

Defense lawyer Sultan Ahmad Jamshed, confirmed the court order, which does not relate to surgeon Shakeel Afridi, who was jailed for 33 years for treason.

He was arrested after being recruited by the CIA to run the fake program to obtain DNA samples in a bid to identify relatives of bin Laden.

He was convicted over alleged ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Islam and not for working for the CIA, for which the court said it did not have jurisdiction.

After disclosing Afridi’s role in the operation, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an interview last year with CBS’s 60 Minutes program that he was concerned over the Pakistani medic’s criminal charge. 

“I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual ... who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” Panetta said.

“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan,” the defense secretary said. “Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism ... and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.”

The question remained whether capital punishment should be the price to pay for assisting the hunt for the notorious bin Laden; mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks which Pakistan had immediately condemned in 2001.

“So what exactly is the Pakistani national interest that has been harmed by Dr. Afridi in helping locate the world’s most wanted terrorist on Pakistani soil?” the Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper wrote in an editorial in October 2011.

“There is an even more distressing aspect to this tale of transnational subterfuge: reportedly, incensed by the American-sponsored ploy, the security apparatus has tightened its monitoring of international aid agencies and local NGOs involved in the health sector, potentially disrupting the urgent work of stamping out the polio virus that has been resurgent in Pakistan in recent years. Must innocent children suffer because of cloak-and-dagger games between states?” the newspaper questioned.

Last Update: Friday, 15 March 2013 KSA 14:31 - GMT 11:31