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Jailing Dr Afridi earns Pak $33 million US aid cut

May 25, 2012 04:33 IST

Outraged over the prosecution of a Pakistani doctor for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden, a US Senate panel has voted unanimously to cut aid to Pakistan by $33 million, or $1 million for each of the physician's 33-year prison sentence.

The unanimous vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on the amendment moved by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is reflective of the changing mode in the US and growing frustration among US lawmakers on Pakistan.

The committee approved Graham's amendment on a 30-0 vote.

A Pakistani court had on Wednesday sentenced or Dr Shakil Afridi to 33 years of rigorous imprisonment after finding him guilty of "spying on Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden without bringing it to the notice of the government of Pakistan".

"This conviction says to me that Al Qaeda is viewed by the court to be Pakistan. I don't know which side of the war Pakistan is on. This makes me seriously question our financial support to Pakistan," powerful Senator Dianne Feinstein said during the markup.

Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Lindsey Graham called Pakistan a "schizophrenic" ally, which has suffered the worst losses at the hands of Islamic militants while at the same time harboring the Haqqani network and other groups.

"If this is cooperation, I would hate like heck to see opposition," Leahy said.

The latest decision by the Senate represents about four per cent of the $800 million set aside for Pakistan for the year 2013. This includes $250 million in foreign military aid and another $50 million for Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts.

In fact, this amount of $800 million is far below the $2.3 billion the Obama administration is requesting for Pakistan.

Another House committee had made similar recommendations early this week.

The substantial reduction in House and Senate committees comes despite warning from the White House that such a move could be counter-productive in getting Pakistan's cooperation in war against terrorism.

The Obama administration has insisted that there is no basis to imprison Afridi on treason charges. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little today said helping the US against Al Qaeda in no way means that the doctor was working against Pakistan

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