Rehmat Shah Afridi freed on parole
LAHORE, May 24: The Punjab government on Saturday released Rehmat Shah Afridi, editor-in-chief of an English daily, on parole after nine years of detention.
Imprisoned in the Central Jail, Kot Lakhpat following his conviction in a narcotics smuggling case, Mr Afridi was admitted to the Services Hospital on April 16 because of his poor health. “The director (parole) of the Punjab home department informed Mr Afridi in the hospital about his release orders,” Kot Lakhpat jail superintendent Malik Mubashir told Dawn.
“I was arrested after my paper published a report that the then Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) DG and some of the army officers were involved in drug smuggling,” Mr Afridi told newsmen after his release.
He said in 1990s, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mirza Aslam Baig had offered him the slots of NWFP governor and chief minister for giving evidence against PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.
Later, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif also offered him pardon for giving evidence against Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari but he refused, Mr Afridi said.
He further said he would reopen all cases against him.
Mr Afridi said an allegation was levelled against him that he had invited tribal area drug barons on the marriage of Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari and those guests gave them expensive gifts, but the officer who prepared the said report was himself a close ally of a top drug baron.
ANF officials had apprehended Mr Afridi outside a private hotel on The Mall on April 1, 1999, on the charges of possessing 20 kilograms of hashish in his Mercedes.
Later, a truck was intercepted in Faisalabad carrying 650 kilograms of hash.
He was tried by a special court which on June 27, 2001 awarded him death sentence in both the cases. He was also sentenced to pay a fine of Rs1 million in each case.
On his appeal challenging the conviction, a division bench of the Lahore High Court had on June 3, 2004 reduced the death sentence to life imprisonment. The bench had maintained Rs2 million fine.