Senate to cut $33 million from Pakistan aid in retaliation for jailing bin Laden source
A doctor who assisted the US in finding Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan has been convicted of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
In retaliation, a rare bi-partisan show of unity ensued in the senate as angry members of the Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to slash $33 million from US aid to Pakistan - a million dollars for each year of the doctor's sentence.
U.S. senators scandalized by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden voted on Thursday to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million -- one million for each year in the doctor's sentence.
"It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realize we are serious," said Senator Richard Durbin 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 number two Democrat.
Pakistan's jailing of Dr Shakil Afridi for 33 years on treason charges was also criticized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called it "unjust and unwarranted".
"The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. (Shakil) Afridi," Clinton said, vowing to continue to press the case with Islamabad.
The Senate Appropriations Committee's action docking Pakistan's aid came after a subcommittee earlier in the week slashed assistance to Islamabad -- and warned it would withhold even more cash if Pakistan does not reopen supply routes for NATO soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.
Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track down bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year.
More significantly, the senate committee made the resumption of aid to Pakistan dependent on the Secretary of State certifying that the resupply routes to Afghanistan would be opened (Pakistan closed the routes after a friendly fire incident last winter).
The cut in aid comes after the appropriations committee cut aid to Pakistan earlier in the week by more than half. Since the Obama administration refuses to confront the Pakistanis over their double dealing with terrorists, the congress seems willing to do the president's job for him.
There must be a clarification - a showdown if you will - over Pakistan's aid to terrorists who are killing Americans in Afghanistan. The situation is intolerable and giving the Pakistanis $7 billion in aid over the next 5 years has to be weighed against Islamabad's unfriendly actions.
We may need Pakistan. But we don't need them so badly that we sell our souls to help them.