US Senate panel cuts aid to Pakistan over doctor's conviction

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 yesterday 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 harbouring 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 USD 800 million set aside for Pakistan for the year 2013. This includes USD 250 million in foreign military aid and another USD 50 million for Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts.

In fact, this amount of USD 800 million is far below the USD 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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