winds swirl around Pakistani
doctor By Dinesh Sharma
Isn't it a strange twist of history that
there will be a movie about the hunt for al-Qaeda
leader Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty,
coming soon to a theater near you? However, the
Pakistani physician, Dr Shakil Afridi, who was
instrumental in tracking down the al-Qaeda
mastermind in his compound in Abbottabad in
Pakistan, and managed to gather some DNA evidence
on the Bin Laden family, is sitting in a Pakistani
jail with a 33-year sentence for treason.
As Walter Benjamin, the literary critic,
writing at the time of Nazi Germany, accurately
observed, without any traditional, ritualistic
value, art will be focused on politics. Similarly,
movies, theater and drama in the age of mechanical
reproduction, will inherently be based on the
practice of politics. This is certainly true of
Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow, the
Oscar Award winning director of The Hurt
Is the Pakistani doctor, who
has now become another foot soldier
in the war against
terrorism, simply a pawn in a much larger war
game? Two intelligence agencies and their
respective nations, the United States and
Pakistan, have clearly fallen on bad times.
Or did the current administration simply
fail to protect the doctor, who was important to
the mission, but was exposed in the aftermath of
the killing that revealed Pakistan's "double
The Washington Post has reported,
"Afridi failed to obtain the samples [on Bin
Laden] and didn't know the target of the program,
but US officials said he nonetheless contributed
to an intelligence operation that culminated in
the May 2, 2011, killing of Bin Laden by a Navy
"They put him out there," said
Peter King, US Congressman from New York and
chairman of the Homeland Security Commission,
adding that he was unaware of any efforts the
administration made to get the physician out of
Pakistan. "I'm focused on that they disclosed his
identity," said King on Fox News.
not clear who actually disclosed Afridi's
identity, but he is in grave danger now, with the
Taliban threatening to kill him. Did the Pakistani
intelligence agency arrest him a few days after
the Bin Laden raid on their own suspicions? Have
the Pakistanis found a sacrificial lamb for their
apparent complicity in hiding Bin Laden for five
years in the resort town of Abbottabad just 80
kilometers from the capital, Islamabad?
Only time will reveal what circuitous
strategy Pakistan is attempting to follow in
convicting the physician.
The US Congress
responded by cutting off US$33 million in aid, $1
million for each year of Afridi's sentence.
Cutting off a modest money supply has generally
not created an overwhelming reaction from the
Pakistani authorities before. For instance, the
supply routes through Pakistan for goods bound for
the war effort in Afghanistan are still closed
off. As a result of this impasse, President Barack
Obama and President Asif Ali Zardari were playing
"hide and seek" with each other in Chicago at the
recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.
We will find out soon enough how adamant
the US really is about freeing Afridi from his
imprisonment. Will the US throw its weight behind
"the good doctor", like it did behind the blind
Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who has now
found sanctuary in the US?
Or will we have
to wait for Zero Dark Thirty to find out
the real truth, which could clearly be varnished,
about the heroic action Afridi took on behalf of
the Central Intelligence Agency?
Apparently, Bigelow was given unparalleled
access to "the vault", consisting of the files on
the Bin Laden raid, according to documents
obtained by Judicial Watch. The movie is to be
released prior to the November presidential
election to bolster Obama's foreign policy wins.
Maybe Afridi was handsomely paid off, thus
absolving America of any responsibility for his
welfare, which nonetheless has sent a chilling
message to all those who may want to follow in his
Many questions remain unanswered. In
the new hyper-reality, "truth" is variable,
partial and filtered through the 24/7 news cycle
and security contingencies of the post-9/11 world.
Technology and social media have "blown to bits"
our conventional social reality; surveillance is
the norm, where nothing is private.
American Century Redux: We better orient
ourselves to the "brave new world". In the first
decade of the 21st century, we have seen a
maelstrom of historic events gathering "virtually"
in our living rooms:
9/11 Attacks and the "war on terror".
Iraq War, and the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Great recession of 2008, and the of collapse
of the housing market.
Election of Barack Hussein Obama, the first
multicultural president of the US.
Afghan war, and the killing of Osama bin
Arab Spring, and the fall of Ben Ali in
Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Libyan revolution, and the killing of Muammar
Suppression of revolts in Syria and Bahrain.
Emergence of BRICS economies
Decline of the eurozone.
This is only
a topline summary. Clearly, a new century of
geopolitics has begun, as outlined by the US State
Department's policy of "full spectrum dominance",
using land, air, maritime and cyber-space backed
The fate of the BRICS, especially
India and other Asian regional powers, will stand
or fall based on how they adjust to the new world
order. Pepe Escobar of Asia Times Online calls it
"The New Great Game", in which we are all now foot
soldiers in the march towards progress.