There are troubling reports that Dr Shakil Afridi’s family is being denied identity cards, apart from being placed on the ECL alongside Dr Shakil himself. The charges against Afridi are serious; aiding a foreign country in espionage and running a false vaccination campaign that set Pakistan decades behind in its fight against polio. However, while the sins of the father are serious, should his wife and children be made to pay for them?

Dr Shakeel Afridi’s case has been registered under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), but no charges have been filed against his family. If these measures are being taken because there is fear of them being whisked it if the country, that would be understandable, but no such explanation has been offered. Collective punishment has been used in the past as a means to drive out suspects, get them to comply, or allow for punishment meted out to a family member if the actual suspect is not present, none of which are a factor in this instance.

Dr Afridi must answer for his crimes, and that too in Pakistan. Apart from betraying his country, Dr Afridi also betrayed the very children of his country, by establishing the spectre of vaccination campaigns being engineered by the US for their own ends. President Trump (candidate Trump at the time) expressed a willingness to ‘make’ Pakistan hand over Afridi, while he was on the campaign trail. The Foreign Office’s stern reply at the time was appropriate, and it should be remembered that no other country has any business meddling in the affairs of another sovereign state; especially when dealing with a traitor like Shakil Afridi. But prosecuting Dr Afridi and persecuting his family are two entirely different things.

The government must clarify why both the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Interior Ministry have blocked the issuance of National Identity Cards (NICs) and have placed the families’ names on the Exit Control List (ECL). If the family is under suspicion, a transparent investigation should take place, rather than simply employing restrictive tactics. Unless the government can justify these actions, it must reverse them and keep this case restricted to the person who committed the crime – Shakil Afridi – rather than punishing the entire family for something they are not seemingly involved with. The anger with Shakil Afridi is just, but it would be vengeance to take it out on his family.