WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sharply criticized Pakistan in her first remarks about the 33-year sentence given to the doctor who helped the CIA locate Osama bin Laden in a military town near Islamabad.
Shakil Afridi was found guilty of treason by a Pakistani tribal court May 23 for running an immunization program for the CIA as a pretext to collect DNA samples to confirm bin Laden was living within a large walled compound in Abbottabad.“We think his treatment is unjust and unwarranted,” Clinton said of Afridi in remarks at the State Department. She said the conviction and jail sentence had “no basis” and the doctor’s fate was among “the many issues important to the United States and the international community” that the U.S. is discussing with Pakistan’s leaders.
The sentencing has strained already fraught U.S.-Pakistan ties, with resentment and anger on both sides. Pakistan has yet to act on the U.S. request to crack down on militants that attack NATO troops or to re-open the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that were closed to protest U.S. airstrikes.The raid that killed bin Laden and led to Afridi’s sentence raised hackles on both sides, as Pakistan protested the infringement on its sovereignty and Americans questioned how the master terrorist’s presence could have gone undetected by Pakistani authorities.
U.S. lawmakers registered their own displeasure over Afridi’s sentencing, moving yesterday to cut military aid to the government in Islamabad.Lawmakers have already scaled back aid to Pakistan as part of larger cuts in the foreign aid budget, including the special Overseas Contingency Operations fund that is used for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Senate Appropriations Committee has requested $1 billion in aid for Pakistan for fiscal year 2013, down from about $1.5 billion.
Kerry said Afridi’s sentencing will be hard for people in the U.S. to understand or bear. “Americans will have great difficulty knowing that one year after the United States found and killed the most notorious terrorist in modern history hiding on Pakistani soil, the most visible action being taken to find out how he came to be in Pakistan is the conviction in a Pakistani court of the physician who helped the United States identify Osama bin Laden,” Kerry said. – Onlinenews