By Jamie Crawford
Outrage over the imprisonment of a Pakistani doctor who tried to help the CIA locate the hiding place of Osama bin Laden was in full force Thursday as the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut another $33 million from the military aid package to Pakistan.
The figure derived from the 33-year sentence for treason that a Pakistani court meted out to Dr. Shakil Afridi on Wednesday.
The 30-0 roll call was based on an amendment to the Senate version of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The amendment calls for the $33 million to be upheld until "the Secretary of State reports to the Committees on Appropriations that Dr. Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges relating to the assistance provided to the United States in locating Osama bin Laden."
The amendment was sponsored by Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina; Dan Coats, R-Indiana; Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont; Dianne Feinstein, D-California; and Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey.
Thursday's vote adds to an already-damaged and fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Relations between the two countries essentially froze last November following the accidental killing of Pakistani soldiers in a NATO airstrike. Pakistan in turn closed supply lines into Afghanistan that NATO used to support the war effort.
Afridi, who is said to have assisted in trying to uncover the location of the terror leader last year under the guise of a vaccination campaign in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was convicted by a tribal court in northwestern Pakistan, and sent to prison in Peshawar following the ruling.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have both spoken of their concern for Alfridi, and have called for his release.
Clinton said Thursday that the United States "does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. Alfridi."
"His help, after all, was instrumental in taking down one of the world's most notorious murderers," she added.
"This action by Dr. Afridi helped to bring about the end of the reign of terror - designed and executed by bin Laden– (and) was not in anyway a betrayal of Pakistan ...we will continue to press it with the government of Pakistan."
Also Thursday, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said the Alfridi conviction and sentence "has frankly outraged all of us."
"I hope that we can have further discussion of our entire relations with Pakistan," McCain said.