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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 290

Edited by Jeff M. Smith
June 1, 2012


The Pakistani doctor who assisted the CIA in tracking Osama bin Laden in Pakistan has been sentenced to 33 years in prison, sparking outrage in Washington, and further damaging the already crippled U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor, was paid in March and April 2011 by the CIA to run a vaccination program in Abottabad, the Pakistani town where bin Laden was found and killed on May 2, 2011. Through the program, the CIA hoped to obtain DNA evidence confirming bin Laden’s presence at compound where he was eventually found. It appears Dr. Afridi was unaware of the target of his program. Three weeks after the Abottabad raid, Dr. Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities and on May 23 received his 33-year prison sentence.

Initial news reports suggested Dr. Afridi had been charged with treason, prompting U.S. lawmakers to vote to dock Pakistan $33 million in aid -- one million for each year of Afridi’s sentence. It has now been revealed that Dr. Afridi was not, in fact, charged with treason, but with links to an obscure local militant group. Pakistani authorities charged him with providing $22,000 to Lashkar-e-Islam (a group that has subsequently denied any ties to Afridi). Friends of the family argued he was once abducted by the group and forced to pay a ransom of around the same amount. Dr. Afridi was charged under Pakistan’s tribal justice system, through which he has been denied a lawyer or access to his family. In the three weeks between the Abottabad raid and Dr. Afridi’s arrest, he appears to have declined CIA offers to resettle he and his family. (The Express Tribune May 30, 2012; The Australian May 31, 2012)

Afghanistan has received a rare spot of good news from the UN, which reported this week that civilian casualties have dropped 36 percent so far this year, when compared with last. It marked the first time the death toll has declined over a period of several months since the UN began tracking the statistic. In the first four months of 2012, 579 civilians were killed and 1,216 were wounded, compared to 898 killed and 1,373 in the same period 2011. The UN blamed “anti-government forces” for 79 percent of the civilian casualties. The number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan this year is 174. (
AP May 30, 2012)


For the first time in 25 years, an Indian Prime Minister has visited neighboring Burma, where a newly-elected military government is overseeing a dramatic political transformation, from reclusive pariah state to nascent democracy. India is rushing to capitalize on the historic political and economic opening after witnessing two decades of a steady buildup of Chinese influence in its eastern neighbor. Like their Western counterparts, Indian businessmen have flooded the Burmese capital, believing they will benefit from a “home-field advantage”: two to three million Indians live in Burma today. In addition to signing 12 bilateral agreements with the Burmese government, including the extension of an Indian credit line of $500 million and agreements on border trade, air service , and energy exploration, PM Singh pledged to double bilateral trade by 2015, from the current total of $1.2 billion. During his two-day stay, Singh also conducted a one-hour visit with opposition leader and renowned democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, in which he invited the leader, recently released from years of house arrest, to give a lecture in New Delhi. (
Hindustan Times May 29, 2012; Wall Street Journal May 28; 2012)


Nepal is headed toward yet another constitutional crisis, after the country’s Constituent Assembly again failed to reach agreement on a new constitution before their term expired. The Assembly, elected in 2008 on a two-year term, has been renewed four times after repeated failed attempts to draft a new constitution. Nepal’s Supreme Court has ruled out another extension and the current prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, wants to head a caretaker government until new elections are held in November. However, opposition parties are threatening to join hands to topple the government, insisting Bhattarai lacks the authority to remain in power. In the words of Arun Narsingh, leader of the Nepali Congress party, “We are demanding a new government that would have representation from all major political parties to ensure that the polls are free and fair.” (
May 30, 2012)

Related Categories: South Asia; South Asia Program

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