The family of Dr Shakil Afridi went into hiding soon after media organisations reported that he had assisted CIA personnel in launching a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in the run-up to the killing of Osama bin Laden there, according to sources. Members of a family from Nowshera, to whom Dr Afridi had rented out the upper storey of his residence in Peshawar’s Hayatabad township, told Dawn on Wednesday that the surgeon’s family left their home on Tuesday. Members of Dr Afridi’s family were reluctant to talk to media personnel and the cellphone of one of his brothers, Jamil Afridi, had been switched off, they said. Dr Afridi himself has been missing since May 23. He was last reported to be on his way home from Jamrud. Belonging to Malikdinkhel tribe of Bara tehsil in Khyber Agency, Dr Afridi was appointed as the government surgeon for Khyber Agency on April 17, 2009, but was removed from the post a few months later on charges of corruption. He filed an appeal in Peshawar High Court which reinstated him on April 13, 2011, after absolving him of the charges. Sources said that Dr Afridi ran a private healthcare centre — the Al-Noor Surgical Hospital in Bara — before his appointment as an agency surgeon. They said that patients in Bara had lodged several complaints with a local militant ‘commander’, Mangal Bagh of Lashkar-i-Islam, against Dr Afridi. They accused him of charging exorbitant fees for surgeries that were not always needed. It was also alleged that he was a general physician, not a qualified surgeon. The activists of Lashkar-i-Islam kidnapped him and later expelled him from Bara after receiving Rs2.5 million as “fine for his misdeeds”, according to the sources. Dr Afridi then moved to the posh Hayatabad township in Peshawar. When asked to comment on the issue, senior officials of Fata Health Directorate simply said that Dr Afridi had been transferred to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They did not give details. A close friend of Dr Afridi, Dr Qadoos Ahmed, said he was shocked to learn about the controversial surgeon’s involvement in an alleged fake vaccination drive launched in Abbottabad at the behest of CIA officials. He added that Dr Afridi and some of his family members could have been arrested by the authorities. Independent sources, however, did not confirm the alleged arrests.
Dawn News