As we await word on why the airlines’ SABRE reservation system would go down at exactly the time the US is warning that Undie 3.0 could be underway and the US is evacuating our personnel from Yemen, there are interesting developments on the related world trend of prison breaks.
Recall that one of the large prison breaks of al Qaeda figures took place in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan on July 29, with about 250 prisoners escaping. It would appear that Pakistan had very specific advance warning on this attack, but the security personnel who were present did not do their jobs once the attack started. Today, we learn from Dawn that Pakistani Army troops have been dispatched to at least two more jails to beef up security as there appears to be a new intelligence warning addressing all jails in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:
Amid security threats of militant attacks, Army troops were deployed on Tuesday at Central Jail Peshawar, which holds Dr Shakil Afridi and other high profile Taliban inmates, and Haripur jail.
The military sources confirmed that the troops took over the jail security on the request of the civil administration .
The source added that the deployment would not be for a long period and that the troops would be present at the prisons only to strengthen the security cordon.
Other sources said that though security warning was issued for all the jails in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province but Central Jail Peshawar could be the prime target as Dr Shakil Afridi who was convicted of assisting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in obtaining DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden through a fake vaccination campaign was also held in the said prison.
Moreover the founder chief of the outlawed Tehrik Nifaz Sharia-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), Mualana Sufi Mohammad, the former Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, and a number of other key commanders belinging [sic] to the Swat and Bajaur chapter of the Taliban are also jailed in the Peshawar Central Prison.
Recall that it was pointed out over a year ago that Afridi is under considerable risk being housed in a jail with such high-profile Taliban figures. Despite that risk, though, Afridi managed to be interviewed by Fox News from inside the jail, with the interview published just one day before Benghazi Day. Both Afridi and a number of guards were then retaliated against for allowing the interview to happen.
If an attack occurs on Peshawar Central Jail, it seems likely that Afridi would have a very low prospect of surviving, as both militants inside the jail and those who launch the attack from outside would be highly motivated to see him killed. It would seem to me that Pakistan could stabilize the situation somewhat by moving Afridi to an undisclosed more secure location and then making it known that he has been moved.
Providing more evidence that perhaps the best move President Obama can make for world affairs is to quickly appoint a new Secretary of Defense so that Leon Panetta can retire to a soundproof booth, five more polio workers in Pakistan paid with their lives for Panetta’s leak that conclusively tied Dr. Shakil Afridi and a vaccination ruse to the CIA effort to identify and kill Osama bin Laden. The tragic shootings in Pakistan consisted of three separate incidents in Karachi and one in Peshawar.
Dawn summarizes various news services’ reports on the shootings:
Four were killed in three different incidents in the port city of Karachi and the fifth in the northwestern city of Peshawar, on the second day of a nationwide three-day drive against the disease, which is endemic in Pakistan.
All of the victims were Pakistanis working with a UN-backed programme to eradicate polio.
Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for Sindh province said he had ordered a halt to the anti-polio drive in the city in the wake of the shootings.
These killings come on the heels of previous incidents:
On Monday, police said a gunman killed a volunteer for the World Health Organization’s anti-polio campaign was shot dead on the city outskirts in Gadap Town.
Earlier in July 2012, a local paramedic associated with the polio vaccination was shot dead and a World Health Organisation doctor, Fosten Dido, from Ghana along with his driver were wounded in two separate attacks in the Sohrab Goth area.
WHO, a partner in government efforts to eradicate the disease, suspended vaccination activities in part of Pakistan’s largest city in July after a spate of bloody shootings.
These killings come just under three weeks since it was announced that Dr. Afridi had started a hunger strike at Peshawar Central Jail after the jail retaliated against him for his telephone interview with Fox News. Since the report of the start of the hunger strike, the jail has fired the guard whose phone was used for the interview, but I’ve seen no further reports on the status (or whereabouts) of Afridi. That is striking, since the report on Afridi’s hunger strike appeared within 24 hours of its apparent start. Further, we learn from the New York Times today that US funds for Pakistan’s military have once again begun to flow, despite repeated threats from various members of Congress that these funds would be blocked until Afridi is released from jail. These events also take place in the wake of Panetta’s ham-handed “clarification” last week on the status of Pakistan’s cooperation in anti-terrorism activity.
The Times article tells us that the Pentagon notified Congress of the release of funds to Pakistan on December 7, just a week after the Afridi hunger strike started on November 30. Is Afridi still in Peshawar Central Jail or has he been quietly released and removed from the country as part of the normalization of US-Pakistan relations?
The day before the fateful attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans and gave the Republicans Mitt’s desired “Jimmy Carter moment“, Fox News published an interview purported to be with Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA in its quest to locate Osama bin Laden by carrying out a bogus “immunization” program aimed at collecting DNA. At the time, it was entirely unclear whether the interview was genuine. Now, however, there is no doubt that the interview was real. In response to his actions, authorities at Peshawar’s Central Jail have beaten and tortured Afridi and put him into more restrictive solitary confinement with no family or attorney visits allowed. In response, Afridi has started a hunger strike in an apparent attempt to bring attention to his plight and to get back the amenities which were taken away from him.
Reuters gives us the bare bones of the solitary confinement and hunger strike:
The Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hunt down Osama bin Laden started a hunger strike in his jail cell this week to protest against his living conditions, prison officials said on Thursday.
Prison officials in the northwestern city of Peshawar said they are keeping Afridi in solitary confinement and will not allow him to have visitors nor speak to anyone by telephone as punishment for a media interview he gave in September.
“After the interview in which Dr. Shakil Afridi levelled serious allegations against the country’s top spy agency, the prison authorities barred his family members and lawyers from meeting him,” said a prison official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
“In protest, Dr. Shakil has begun a hunger strike for an indefinite period.”
The “prison official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media” appears to have no appreciation of the irony of his making an unauthorized statement to the media describing Afridi’s punishment for making an unauthorized statement to the media.
It appears that Afridi made more telephone calls than just the one in which Fox News interviewed him:
An investigation following the September interview found that Afridi had bribed guards to use their cell phones to speak to journalists, family and friends, making a total of 58 calls, prison officials said. Six prison guards have been suspended.