US cuts Pakistan aid over jailing of 'Bin Laden doctor'

 
Shakil Afridi. File photo Shakil Afridi could end up spending 33 years in prison

A US Senate panel has cut $33m (£21m) in aid to Pakistan in response to the jailing of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has said it will cut US aid by $1m for each year of Shakil Afridi's sentence.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said his term was "unjust and unwarranted".

Dr Afridi was tried for treason under a tribal justice system for running a fake vaccination programme to gather information for US intelligence.

Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.

The move from the Senate panel follows earlier cuts to the White House's budget request for Pakistan. The cuts would be part of a bill that would send $1bn in aid to Pakistan in the next financial year.

"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 Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, calling Pakistan "a schizophrenic ally".

Meanwhile Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said: "It's Alice in Wonderland at best. If this is co-operation, I'd hate like hell to see opposition."

Hillary Clinton: ''We regret both the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence''

Correspondents say the cuts reflect mounting frustration in Congress over Pakistan's role in fighting terrorism on its soil.

Absent from court

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton 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," Mrs Clinton told reporters on Thursday.

She added that she would continue to pursue the issue with the authorities in Pakistan.

The killing triggered a rift between the US and Pakistan, whose government was seriously embarrassed as it emerged Bin Laden had been living in Pakistan.

Islamabad felt the covert US operation was a violation of its sovereignty.

Analysis

The question being asked is, if Dr Afridi really thought he had brought harm to the Pakistani security establishment, why didn't he leave the country during the 20 days that the Pakistanis took to discover him?

A brief insight into what he did or did not know is provided by a retired brigadier of the Pakistani army, Shaukat Qadir, who was tasked with conducting an investigation into the affair.

Quoting Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) officials privy to Dr Afridi's interrogation, Brig Qadir suggests he probably did not know he was helping the Americans track down Bin Laden.

Analysts say the Pakistani establishment has done this not only to defy the Americans but also to send a message to all Pakistani contacts of American diplomatic missions to desist from repeating Dr Afridi's "mistake".

Shortly after the raid on Bin Laden's house, Dr Afridi was arrested for conspiring against the state of Pakistan.

Pakistan has insisted that any country would have done the same if it found one of its citizens working for a foreign spy agency.

"I think as far as the case of Mr Afridi is concerned, it was in accordance with Pakistani laws and by the Pakistani courts, and we need to respect each other's legal processes," its foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan told reporters on Thursday.

Dr Afridi was found guilty in Khyber district, and sentenced to at least 30 years in jail as well as being fined $3,500. If he does not pay the fine his prison sentence will be extended by a further three years.

Dr Afridi, who is now being held in jail in Peshawar, was not present in court so was unable to give his side of the story.

In June, Pakistani army officials told the BBC that some suspects were arrested for helping the Americans refuel their helicopters during the raid. Others were detained because they were suspected of firing flares to guide the helicopters towards the compound.

It is not clear what DNA Dr Afridi managed to collect in the fake hepatitis B vaccination programme. The idea was to obtain a blood sample from one of the children living in the Abbottabad compound, so that DNA tests could determine whether or not they were relatives of Bin Laden.

It is also unclear if Dr Afridi even knew who the target of the investigation was when the CIA recruited him.

"Shakil actually didn't know he was looking for Bin Laden," Shaukat Qadir, a former Pakistani brigadier who investigated the Abbottabad raid and has been privy to details of Dr Afridi's interrogation, told the BBC.

But he said Dr Afridi should have notified the Pakistani authorities of his activities.

"Pakistan's help should have been sought and if they wanted to use somebody as an agent to assist the CIA, they should have gone to the ISI and said, 'we have this man in mind - would you mind if we use him for this purpose?' And I think that would have been fine," Brig Qadir said.

US officials have said they kept the raid secret from Pakistan because they could not trust their counterparts in the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader.

The issues of drone strikes and Pakistan's refusal to re-open Nato supply routes to Afghanistan have also recently severely strained the two allies' relationship.

Pakistan's parliament has called for an end to the use of drones, and says they are an attack on its sovereignty. Drone strikes in the past two days have killed 12 people in the North Waziristan tribal area, security officials said.

Osama Bin Laden US special forces caught up with Bin Laden in a quiet Pakistani town last year

The two countries also failed to reach agreement at the Nato summit in Chicago over the supply routes that were closed after a US air strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Islamabad is demanding more than $5,000 (£3,200) per lorry in transit fees, up from its previous rate of $250, to let supplies flow again. US officials have said they will not pay that much.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 61.

    Bin Laden found sheltering next to a major military headquarters and we are expected to believe that the Government of Pakistan never knew he was there.
    Members of the Pakistan SIS arrested in Kabul in the act of terrorism and we are expected to believe that the Government of Pakistan never knew they were there.
    Now this. What are we expected to believe because the excuses are getting thin.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 59.

    48. Are you referring to Israel which gets 10 times more aid to help it oppress Palestine and take it's lands, divert their water and lock up their young men without trial?
    Pakistan is paid to sit back while we systematically destroy the Islamic world. I think that's called bribe money or blood money. Who are we bombing next is it Iran or Yemen, I've lost track. We have to buy our friends now.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 58.

    The good old Usa Dictators speaking out. it's ok to commit crimes if you're helping the CIA. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said his term was "unjust and unwarranted"

    we could say the same for Gary McKinnon, Chris Tappin, Richard O'Dwyer etc etc who are facing jail terms longer than some murderers, & yet in the case of chris & richard haven't even committed any crimes under uk law. hypocrisy

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 57.

    It's the one thing I never really appreciated; Indian aid is worthwhile, as they ARE valued allies (who obviously have some issues with where money is spent). Pakistan, whilst not the 'worst' of the countries in the region, is a belligerent, hostile and often unstable 'ally' to Europe and the US. 1 billion in aid could support countries less antagonistic and more needy than Pakistan, let's change.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 56.

    Aid is a misnoma - this is bribery and corruption and always has been. When Oxfam go and build a sustainable water system for a village, that is aid. When the West give millions to a government fronted by some pseudo organisation to invest in Western friendly project X but with a lot left over to buy weapons (from the benefactor of course) - that is not aid, it is bunce.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 55.

    A regime that spends millions on nuclear weapons while its people starve.A regime that aids and abets terrorism throughout the world.A country where a man can throw acid in his wife's face and nothing is done.How this lot are receiving a single red cent in 'aid' is beyond belief.High time our government looked at this too.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 54.

    I'm certainly not an expert, but I often wonder how much of the international aid funding ends up directly contributing to a healthier, better educated and more prosperous population. Unfortunately greed and corruption are universal truths.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 53.

    If the western governments were not to give aid to Pakistan, then the good will it generates at ground level would be lost.

    Perhaps Dr Afridi was working for a aid funded organisation at the time of the vacinations, who knows?

    If we the west dont help the poor in every country, then we fail humanity as a whole, regardless if the country in question deserves the aid, its poor allways do!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 52.

    Time we looked after our countries people too.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 51.

    Pakistan isn't really a poor country, it just has too great a population. If a country like Pakistan has a nuclear weapon and spends millions on armed forces, then frankly it shouldn't be getting aid. Besides its already proven time after time that Pakistan is a haven for terrorism.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 50.

    What has happened in Pakistan re-inforces the belief that sections of Pakistans intelligence services , military and government were protecting Bin Laden . All the recent cases have been against anyone connected with locating Bin Laden , instead of these people being thanked and rewarded they are impisoned , Pakistan is prolonging the war in afghanistan at best and at worst supports the taliban.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 49.

    Treason is a crime that alleges the criminal violated his allegiance towards his sovereign or country, or purposely acted to aid its enemies. Unless Pakistan considered bin Laden in that light, the crime is impossible. So...was bin Laden the sovereign of Pakistan, or is the United States its enemy? I'd love to see that answered.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 48.

    Why are we giving any aid to a nuclear armed state?

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 47.

    Time the Pakistanis learned to stand on their own two feet and showed two fingers to the US. Life does go on without money from the US - which always comes at a heavy cost for the recipient.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 46.

    Of course the US hates to see a democratic judicial system at work. No waterboarding in sight. No quicky military trial behind closed doors to hide evidence of state wrongdoing. How could the US even understand it?
    Will we see the US declare war on Pakistan now? Oh no I forgot, the US is financially and morally bankrupt and pays Pakistan to be one of it's few friends in the world today!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 45.

    32 hussy

    Imports to Pakistan last year were valued at £30 billion ... not bad for a country nobody wants to trade with. Tourism was around 720,000 ... quite good for a country 'no tourist wants to visit'. Been a tourist there myself ... beautiful country, with splendid people. Some parts you wouldn't want to venture into at night, but that's true of most countries.

  • rate this
    -26

    Comment number 44.

    It is so wrong that help given to a poor country like Pakistan must come with strings which say you must do what AMERICA wants. Help is given as a gesture of kindness but now, no you can't have it unless you let AMERICA say how you run your country.

    It is a shame that Pakistan needs help too badly to be able to refuse all this tainted money from America who just wants to manpulate everyone.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 43.

    For all that killing Osama Bin Laden was worth, it certainly hasn't led to stopping terrorism, as the American establishment wanted us to believe. There are a lot more dangerous exponents of Islamic fanaticism, chiefly the medieval ideals of countries like Saudi Arabia, which are reprehensible, dictatorial regimes. But of course, they buy US and British weapons, so they are OK (friendly tyrants)

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 42.

    The majority of Pakistanis actually want the aid to be cut. We welcome the step and hope other countries will follow too. We don't need petty dollars in return for the disgrace and lies US keeps spewing

 

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