Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In a 30-0 vote, a US Senate panel cut US$ 33 million from its aid package to Pakistan in response to the conviction of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden. The cut by the Senate Appropriations Committee to its US$ 52 billion US foreign aid budget was largely symbolic, one million dollar for every year of Shakil Afridi's sentence.
On Wednesday, Dr Afridi was convicted for treason under a tribal justice system in Khyber district and fined US$ 3,500 for helping the United States find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad near the capital Islamabad. Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in May 2011.
Dr Afridi, who is now in jail in Peshawar, was not present in court and so was unable to give his side of the story. He ran a fake vaccination programme to collect DNA samples that allowed US intelligence to find al Qaeda's founder.
"The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr Afridi. We regret the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence," Clinton said, calling his treatment "unjust and unwarranted."
Analysts say the Pakistani establishment opted for such harsh treatment 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".
The Pakistani doctor was arrested a few days after the US Special Forces raid in May last year that ended in bin Laden's death. Pakistan slammed the US action as a violation of its sovereignty.
At the recent NATO meeting in Chicago, Pakistan and the United States failed to find an agreement to reopen supply routes for US forces in Afghanistan. Islamabad had closed them down after a US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.