Washington: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured US lawmakers that the case of the jailed Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track Osama bin Laden will be reconsidered by his government, a media report has said.
During his recent four-day visit to the US, Sharif committed to task his top law officials with reviewing the prosecution process for Dr Shakil Afridi, the Fox News reported, quoting those who attended the impromptu meeting.
The assurances from Sharif came during his visit here last week at a carefully stage-managed private meeting that took place between the Pakistan Prime Minister, Congressional representatives and a non-government individual.
"If sincere, the pledge would be the first time that Afridi would receive anything resembling credible judicial attention after he was tortured and given a 33-year jail sentence on trumped up charges as punishment for aiding the US," the report said.
Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Representative Ed Royce together with Robert Lorsch of the Free Afridi Campaign heavily pressured the Pakistani leadership about releasing the doctor and allowing him a life in the US, it said.
"My message to them was: `What they do with Dr Afridi is how Pakistan will be judged as a democracy by the rest of the world,`" Lorsch told Fox News in an interview.
The tight-knit gathering, which included Pakistan`s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz and finance minister Ishaq Dar, had not been previously announced to the somewhat surprised Pakistani delegation, the report said.
The meeting lasted around 25 minutes in a side-room immediately prior to dinner hosted by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it said.
"This was first time that the leadership in Pakistan realised the importance of Dr Afridi not as a political bargaining tool but as a symbol of how freedom-loving American people regard Pakistan," Lorsch was quoted as saying.
"They prosecuted the man who brought the mastermind of 9/11 to justice," he added.
Sharif pointed out that the doctor was awaiting a retrial after his conviction was overturned on a technicality and he could not pardon him unless he was re-convicted.
Afridi was arrested shortly after the May 2, 2011, raid by US commandos that killed bin Laden. He was subsequently convicted by a court in the tribal belt on a charge of treason for alleged ties to the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group.
On August 29, a judicial official overturned the 33-year jail term given to Afridi and ruled that the judge in the tribal areas had exceeded his authority when he handed down the sentence last year. The official also ordered a fresh trial.
The US has been pressing Pakistan to release Afridi, who ran a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to gain access to bin Laden`s compound.