Islamabad, Pakistan – New details have emerged from the Pakistani government around the fate of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the U.S. in tracking down Osama bin Laden.
Most U.S. observers say that Afridi’s imprisonment is a result of his involvement with the U.S., but Pakistani officials have said that the doctor was a “con-artist and a fraud.”
Firdos Ashiq Awan, Pakistani Minister of Information & Broadcasting, appeared on al Jazeera to set the record straight.
"Shakil Afridi is in prison because he has defrauded the people of Pakistan -- plain and simple," said Awan. "We absolutely love our friends in the U.S. but this is a separate matter."
According to Awan, the doctor's legal problems are a result of insurance fraud -- and not in any way connected with his helping of the United States. She went on to say that where Bin Laden was located wasn't even in Pakistan.
"Abbottabad isn't even in our country. It's completely independent. Kind of like Vatican City."
Mutual of Azzaria Health Insurance Company initiated an investigation in September 2011 after review of Dr. Afridi's claim for services rendered to Bin Laden on May 5, 2011.
After careful review of the claim, it was determined that the doctor had sent one of his nurse assistants and charged the insurance company for personal services. Further complicating the matter was the fact that Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALS on May 2, three days prior to the claim. Mutual of Azzaria notified the Minister of Health of probable fraud by the doctor.
The Minister was outraged by the doctor's actions.
"This was just one more nail in my coffin,” he said, referring to Parliament's vote in June 2011 to amend the constitution to eliminate the Department of Health. Facts of this incident were rewritten by the Health Minister to say the doctor was working for the CIA, thereby deflecting attention away from another case of wide-spread fraud within the country's health system.
When news of the coverup was leaked to the Washington Post, the Pakistani Ministry of Information went on the offensive.
"The obvious twisting of facts of this incident is a blatant attempt by the Minister of Health to cover up insurance fraud and try to keep his job," said Awan. "Furthermore, no doctor in the world makes house calls, except on that TV show in the United States."
President Asif Ali Zardari was happy at the outcome of the investigation -- feeling vindicated after harsh actions from the Obama administration.
"The evidence supports the insurance fraud claim since the Doctor was sentenced to only 33 years in prison," said Zardari. “Hell, if he had been involved in treason, we would have beheaded the bastard and just told the U.S. he tripped and fell on an axe."