ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has reacted angrily after U.S. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said that, if elected, he would win freedom “in two minutes” for the jailed Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden.
In a statement released Monday, Pakistani Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan rejected as “highly misplaced and unwarranted” comments Trump made in a recent interview to Fox News.
“Yes, I do. I think I would get him out in two minutes,” Trump said when asked if he would help free Dr. Shakil Afridi, who is serving 33 years in a Pakistani prison on treason charges.
U.S officials denounced Afridi’s treatment as “unjust” and “unwarranted” and have frequently demanded he be freed.
The Pakistani doctor is hailed as a hero in the United States for helping the CIA obtain the Bin Laden family’s DNA by staging a fake immunization campaign in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The move led to the famous May 2011 covert U.S. military raid that killed the al-Qaida leader.
Weeks later, media revelations about Afridi’s role prompted Pakistani authorities to arrest him. He was tried and went to prison in 2012.
Interior Minister Khan asserted Pakistani courts and the government will determine the fate of Shakil Afridi, and not Trump “even if he becomes the President of the United States.”
He went on to note that Afridi is a Pakistani citizen “and nobody else has the right to dictate to us about his future. Trump’s statement only serves to show not only his insensitivity, but also his ignorance about Pakistan," Khan added.
“Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America. He should learn to treat sovereign countries with respect,” lamented the minister.
President Barack Obama in 2014 signed a bill that proposed to withhold $33 million from financial assistance to penalize Pakistan over Afridi’s treatment. The U.S Congress has since been holding the amount from its assistance to Pakistan.
Pakistan's English language daily Dawn in a story published Monday quoted U.S. Congressional sources as telling the paper that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are working on a new measure to use substantial aid cuts to add pressure on Islamabad in their bid to secure Afridi's release.
Pakistan has received billions of dollars in financial assistance for partnering in the U.S.led war against terrorism.
Khan reiterated that Pakistan has made “huge sacrifices” and its economy has suffered immensely while “standing with or supporting” U.S. polices over the years.
“The “peanuts” that U.S. have given us in return should not be used to threaten or browbeat us into following Mr. Trump’s misguided vision of foreign policy,” he said.
Pakistan maintains that since joining the U.S. led war against terrorism, tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including security forces have died in terrorist attacks in reaction to counterterror operations in the country. It estimates the national economy has also suffered $100-billion in losses during the past 15 years.