The Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA confirm the presence of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Abbottabad house where he was killed on May 2 last year has been sentenced to 33 years imprisonment under the colonial vintage Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA collect the DNA sample of bin Laden by conducting a fake vaccination drive in the Abbottabad area. With this sample, the U.S. intelligence agency was able to confirm his presence in the fortified house.

Dr. Afridi was produced before a four-member tribal court and sentenced to 33 years of imprisonment, the political agent of the Khyber tribal agency, Mutahir Zeb Khan, was quoted as telling local journalists. He was also fined PKR 3,20,000. After his conviction, the doctor was sent to the Central Prison in Peshawar.

Dr. Afridi had been charged with high treason after he was picked up by the ISI soon after the Abbottabad raid. For a while, his whereabouts remained unknown after which it became evident that he was in the hands of the intelligence agencies.

Earlier this year, senior U.S. administration officials confirmed that he had helped them track down bin Laden and called for his release, maintaining that he had only assisted in nabbing the world's most wanted terrorist for whom the biggest manhunt of history had been under way for over a decade. Also, U.S. officials sought to point out that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and Dr. Afridi had, therefore, not committed any treason.

The use of a doctor by the U.S. to conduct a fake polio vaccination campaign for intelligence gathering added fuel to the Right-wing rhetoric in Pakistan that many of the international aid agencies were just a front for Western powers out to destabilise the country. It also impacted some of the health programmes of the country, particularly in the tribal areas where there has always been some amount of scepticism about the polio vaccination campaign.

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