US lawmakers eye Pakistan aid freeze over doctor row

Angry US lawmakers Thursday threatened to freeze millions of dollars in vital aid to Islamabad after a Pakistani doctor who helped hunt down Osama bin Laden was jailed for 33 years.

As the case of Shakeel Afridi, also fined 320,000 rupees ($3,500) after being found guilty of treason, stunned Capitol Hill, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced his treatment as "unjust and unwarranted."

"We regret both the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence," Clinton told reporters.

Troubled ties between the United States and Pakistan have not recovered since they sank to all-time lows after the killing of bin Laden by US commandos in a raid on his compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad in May 2011.

Relations frayed further when US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November, causing Pakistan to shut its Afghan border to NATO supply trucks.

The Afridi sentencing was announced just two days after US President Barack Obama appeared to snub Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at a NATO summit over Islamabad's refusal to lift the blockade on the vital transit routes.

The action of Afridi -- who had run a fake vaccination program designed to collect the DNA of the Al-Qaeda leader's family -- to "bring about the end of the reign of terror designed and executed by bin Laden was not, in any way, a betrayal of Pakistan," Clinton said.

Afridi had been "instrumental in taking down one of the world's most wanted murderers. That was clearly in Pakistan's interest, as well as ours and the rest of the world's," Clinton said.

US lawmakers threatened to suspend the aid to Islamabad until Afridi is freed, the Pakistani government ends support for terror groups and re-opens Afghan supply routes.

The United States has given Pakistan more than $18 billion in assistance since Al-Qaeda orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks, but US officials have persistent concerns that some elements of the establishment have maintained support for extremists.

"All of us are outraged at the imprisonment and sentence of some 33 years, virtually a death sentence, to the doctor in Pakistan," Senator John McCain told reporters.

A Pakistani official told AFP that Afridi, who worked for years as a government surgeon in the lawless tribal district of Khyber, now appeared "weak" and "depressed" at the central prison in the northwestern city of Peshawar where he is being held.

"Doctors prescribed some medicine, which was immediately provided. He will remain under medical observation inside the jail," the official told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

In a sign of mounting anger, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-0 to freeze a symbolic $33 million in foreign aid to Pakistan, or $1 million for each year of the sentence, in an amendment to the $52 billion US foreign aid budget.

"We need Pakistan, Pakistan needs us, but we don't need Pakistan double-dealing and not seeing the justice in bringing Osama bin Laden to an end," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

The mammoth appropriations bill, which includes a total of $1 billion in assistance for Pakistan, will go now to the Senate floor. It represents a 58 percent cut in the amount of aid Obama had requested for Pakistan.

"He is not a spy, I can tell you," said Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. "If this is how Pakistan is going to treat a friend and hero, I don't know about these funds."

McCain and others in the Senate Armed Services Committee doubled down later in the day, voting for a sweeping $631.4 billion defense spending bill for the coming fiscal year which freezes about $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan used to offset the costs of its support for the US-led coalition.

"Before the government of Pakistan can be reimbursed using coalition support funds... the secretary of defense is going to have to certify that Pakistan is open and maintaining lines of supply; is not supporting militant extremist groups such as the Haqqani network; and is not detaining or imprisoning citizens of Pakistan," McCain said.

He also said that Pakistan's linkage of Afridi's jailing to its demand for an apology for the US air strike in November is "beyond ludicrous."

The defense bill likely goes to the Senate floor in June or perhaps July, said Senator Carl Levin, the committee's Democratic chair.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys
    AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is adopting a wait and see approach amid reports that China will soon deploy seaplanes to further strengthen its maritime claims in the disputed Spratlys. Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, spokesman for the military and commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, said they have yet to ascertain the real purpose behind China’s continuing aggressive moves in the region. “We will wait and see before coming up with an official stand,” Kakilala said when …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

  • Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions
    Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions

    Short of condemning China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a senior US military official said Washington does not support any act of coercion and bullying. “We don’t stand for coercion, bullying and aggressiveness,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant US military director for  Phl-US Joint Balikatan Exercises 2015. At the sidelines of this year’s joint military exercises’ static aircraft display held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Mahoney told a media briefing that …

  • ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’
    ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’

    The proposed grant to the chief minister of the envisioned Bangsamoro region of operational control over police forces in the area is consistent with the Constitution, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday. It is clear in the proposed BBL that the Bangsamoro police will be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP), while the Bangsamoro Regional Police Board (BRPB) will be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will carry out Napolcom’s mandate in the region,” he …

  • Noy off to KL for Asean meet
    Noy off to KL for Asean meet

    President Aquino will arrive here this afternoon with Manila hopeful of support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as economic prosperity and inclusive growth among the people in the region. Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said that with respect to the dramatic developments in the South China Sea, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had called for the early …

  • Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food
    Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food

    After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors, the future of food is finally here in the country’s capital. Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors on Friday to an international delegation who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world. Madrid Fusión Manila is a historic gastronomic event marked by talks and exhibitions that showcases Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as …

  • Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane
    Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane

    As Philippine officials continue to plead for a stay in the execution of death convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Indonesian government has sent a notice to her family ordering her execution at an undisclosed date, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Indonesian authorities also allowed Veloso’s family and her lawyers to visit her on Nebu Kambangan execution island. “The Prosecutor gave notice letter to the family of Mary Jane …

  • ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’
    ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’

    The 2015 World Happiness Report ranking the Philippines as 90th among 158 happiest countries is a validation of the government’s tourism campaign, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” a Palace official said yesterday. The news did not come as a surprise as Filipinos are naturally cheerful, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options