U.S. Senators Act Harsh on Pakistan for Jailing CIA Helper, Cut Aid by $33 Million

Central Jail in Peshawar
A policeman walks past Central Jail in Peshawar May 24, 2012. Pakistani authorities have sentenced the doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden to 33 years in jail on charges of treason, officials said, a move that drew angry condemnation from U.S. officials already at odds with Islamabad.

U.S. senators scandalized by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden voted on Thursday to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million - one million for each year in the doctor's sentence.

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A policeman walks past Central Jail in Peshawar May 24, 2012. Pakistani authorities have sentenced the doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden to 33 years in jail on charges of treason, officials said, a move that drew angry condemnation from U.S. officials already at odds with Islamabad.

It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realize we are serious, said Senator Richard Durbin after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It's outrageous that they (the Pakistanis) would say a man who helped us find Osama bin Laden is a traitor, said Durbin, the Senate's number two Democrat.

Pakistan's jailing of Dr Shakil Afridi for 33 years on treason charges was also criticized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called it unjust and unwarranted.

The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. (Shakil) Afridi, Clinton said, vowing to continue to press the case with Islamabad.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's action docking Pakistan's aid came after a subcommittee earlier in the week slashed assistance to Islamabad -- and warned it would withhold even more cash if Pakistan does not reopen supply routes for NATO soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.

Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track down bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year.

The al Qaeda leader was killed in the town of Abbottabad a year ago in a unilateral U.S. special forces raid that heavily damaged ties between Islamabad and Washington. Since then, there have been growing calls in the U.S. Congress to cut off some or all of U.S. aid.

Pakistan has been one of the leading recipients of U.S. foreign aid in recent years. Even after the cuts voted this week it still would receive about $1 billion in fiscal 2013, if the full Senate and House of Representatives approve. 

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