Afridi was reluctant to give details about how he become involved with the CIA or the vaccination drive. He said he was never aware the CIA was closing in on the Al Qaeda leader.
“I didn’t know about a specific target apart from the work I was given to do,” he said. “The house was famous for its name, Waziristan House. I was aware that some terrorists were residing in that compound, but I didn’t know whom. I was shocked. I didn’t believe I was associated in his killing.”
His CIA handlers had advised him to flee to Afghanistan, where he and his family would be taken care of. Because he had previously been kidnapped in the unruly Pahstun tribal region that straddles the border with Pakistan, Afridi says he was too scared to travel there and decided to stay.
And because he didn’t view himself as being involved in the bin Laden raid, he didn’t believe it was necessary to escape. However, he was abducted by the ISI at a road checkpoint in Hayatabad on May 23, 2011, and soon found himself in a hellish existence of humiliation at the ISI’s headquarters.
“My clothes were removed and I was forced by a major to wear old dirty torn rags of an army conductor. It was difficult to eat food. I had to bend down on my knees to eat with only my mouth, like a dog. I sat on the floor.”
He was blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 12 months, he says. His treatment has left a debilitating effect on his eyesight and limbs.
The doctor, who also used to act as a surgeon despite not being clinically qualified to perform procedures, said he forced to work as a general practitioner, treating both staff and detainees in the detention center.
“I was told to treat patients and prescribe medicine. Mostly ISI servicemen came to me for advice and prescriptions. I was told that the ISI doctor had said that anyone or everyone could go to Dr. Shakil for medical purposes.”
Before he was allowed to interact with other detainees, the doctor was held in solitary confinement but was aware of a large other number of prisoners being kept underground.
“I was sometimes brought in to general population inside the building [while still blindfolded]. I could hear that a very large crowd of people was around me. These were all prisoners of the ISI. Later, I realized that many would come in and many would vanish on a daily basis. I eventually learned there were some who were in the basement for four or five years.”
Afridi told Fox News he helped the CIA out of love for the U.S., and swore that he would help America again despite suffering crippling torture and psychological abuse during the 12 months he was held by Pakistan’s spy agency.
“I have a lot of respect and love for your people,” he said, adding that he was “proud to work with” the CIA.
His living conditions now are vastly improved over those given by the ISI. Guarded at Peshawar, about 120 miles northwest of Islamabad, around the clock by two commandos, he has a large cell with three ceiling fans, a bed and a bathroom. He has a small gas burner for cooking meals and his family is able to bring him food and supplies – though they say they have to bribe prison officials to do it.
Afridi was sentenced in May to 33 years in jail by a tribal court for funding and supporting the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group. But it is privately acknowledged by the Pakistani authorities that he is being punished for helping the CIA. Laskar-e-Islam denies involvement with him and, together with the Taliban, has sworn to kill him.
“The actual story is that ISI, unconstitutionally, inhumanly and unethically abducted me and kept me unlawfully in their custody for one year and concocted these fabricated allegations,” he said. “The ISI couldn’t find anything and had to concoct a story to hide their illegal actions.”
Fox News was passed copies of the court file against him. It is filled with dozens of dubious witness statements often made in the same handwriting. It also contains glaring factual inaccuracies and apparent falsification of circumstantial evidence.
Afridi denies knowing most of the witnesses who purportedly made statements against him and says some statements are made people who do not exist.
Last week, the case was adjourned until the end of the month, which his lawyers see as a stalling tactic by the ISI. The protracted legal battle complicates matters for Afridi’s family, which was financially dependent on the doctor. He appealed to his supporters on the U.S. for immediate help.
“My bank account was looted [by the ISI while being held], making me bankrupt. I need financial, legal and diplomatic help,” Afridi said. “My situation is very grim. I earned millions of rupees (tens of thousands of dollars) a year and supported my family and that of my brother. All of that is lost.”
Since Afridi’s arrest, the family collectively has suffered $160,000 in lost income, legal fees and living costs, an entire life’s fortune by Pakistani standards, he estimated.
Sib Kaifee also contributed to this report.