Senate committee cuts Pakistan aid over conviction

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel expressed its outrage Thursday over Pakistan’s conviction of a doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, cutting aid to Islamabad by $33 million — $1 million for every year of the physician’s 33-year sentence for high treason.

The punitive move came on top of deep reductions the Appropriations Committee already had made to President Barack Obama’s budget request for Pakistan, a reflection of the growing congressional anger over its cooperation in combatting terrorism. The overall foreign aid budget for next year had slashed more than half of the proposed assistance and threatened further reductions if Islamabad failed to open overland supply routes to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pushing aside any diplomatic talk, Republicans and Democrats criticized Pakistan a day after the conviction in Pakistan of Shakil Afridi. The doctor ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence at the compound in Abbottabad where U.S. commandos found and killed the al-Qaida leader in May 2011.

The United States has called for Afridi’s release, arguing he was acting in the interest of the U.S. and Pakistan.

“We need Pakistan, Pakistan needs us, but we don’t need Pakistan double-dealing and not seeing the justice in bringing Osama bin Laden to an end,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who pushed for the additional cut in aid.

He called Pakistan “a schizophrenic ally,” helping the United States at one turn, but then aiding the Haqqani network which has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Americans. The group also has ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

In crafting the overall legislation, the committee reduced Obama’s request to aid Pakistan by 58 percent as resentment and doubts linger on Capitol Hill a year after bin Laden was killed deep inside Pakistan. Tensions between Washington and Islamabad have increased as Pakistan closed overland supply routes to Afghanistan after a U.S. attack on the Pakistani side of the border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

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