US senators scandalized by Pakistan’s jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden voted on Thursday to cut aid to Islamabad by US$33 million — US$1 million for each year of the doctor’s sentence.
“It’s arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realize we are serious,” US Senator Richard Durbin said after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“It’s outrageous that they [the Pakistanis] would say a man who helped us find Osama bin Laden is a traitor,” said Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 democrat.
The Senate Armed Services Committee later passed a measure that could lead to even deeper cuts in aid.
The sentencing on Wednesday of Dr Shakil Afridi for 33 years on treason charges added to the US’ frustration with Pakistan over what Washington sees as its reluctance to help combat Islamist militants fighting the Afghan government and the closure of supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the jailing of the doctor “unjust and unwarranted,” and vowed to continue to press the case with Islamabad.
“The US does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr Afridi,” she said.
Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the CIA track down bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year.
The al-Qaeda leader was killed in the town of Abbottabad a year ago in a unilateral US special forces raid that heavily damaged ties between Islamabad and Washington. Since then, there have been growing calls in the US Congress to cut off some or all of US aid to Pakistan.