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.

Loading...

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.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR, BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early 70s …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during one …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

  • Miriam pushes tougher graft law
    Miriam pushes tougher graft law

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill that would make public officials liable for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act even if they are elected to a fresh term or a new position. In filing Senate Bill 2716, Santiago sought to address what she said was the doctrine of condonation in Philippine jurisprudence brought about by the 2010 case of Salumbides vs. Ombudsman. “By merely asserting the doctrine of condonation, erring elective officials are automatically given a …

  • Phl hits back at China over sea infra work
    Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

    The Philippines assailed China yesterday for contesting Manila’s planned repair and maintenance works on some islands in the West Philippine Sea, saying they are “in no way comparable” to the Asian power’s massive reclamation activities which are in violation of international laws. “The Philippines’ possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines rightfully exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options