US Senate panel cuts Pakistan aid over doctor's jailing
Outraged over the jailing of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden, a US Senate panel has cut Pakistan's aid by $33 million, or one million for every year of his sentence
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-0 Thursday to cut Islamabad's aid in response to the conviction of Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who sought to collect DNA samples to help verify for the CIA that bin Laden was hiding at a compound in Abbottabad, close to the Pakistani capital.
The cut, seen as a symbolic gesture that reflects growing US frustration with a difficult ally, was pushed by Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who called Pakistan a "schizophrenic ally".
The US "(doesn't) need Pakistan double-dealing and not seeing the justice in bringing Osama bin Laden to an end."
The committee had already slashed President Barack Obama's request for aid to Pakistan by 58 percent and threatened deeper cuts if Islamabad failed to open supply routes to US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan closed those routes after a US attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Meanwhile, the White House and both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta spoke out against Dr Afridi's sentence.
"The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr (Shakil) Afridi. We regret the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence," Clinton told reporters Thursday.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney taking note of Panetta and Clinton's comments said: "We continue to see no basis for Dr. Afridi to be held."
The US, he said, had "raised the issue with the Pakistani government. We'll continue to have conversations with them about it."