The US has said it was reviewing a law passed by the Congress last week which withholds USD 33 million in aid to Pakistan until the release of Dr ShakilAfridi, who helped CIA trace al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Stating that the treatment and imprisonment of Dr Afridi is unjust and unwarranted, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf yesterday told reporters “We are reviewing the language and the law, and obviously we’ll comply with the law.”
The USD 1.1 trillion spending bill, passed by the Congress withholds USD 33 million in financial aid to Pakistan till the release of Afridi.
Pakistan yesterday ruled out the possibility of releasing Afridi, saying the matter was sub judice and his fate would be decided by courts.
Afridi, arrested soon after the May 2011 raid by American commandos that killed bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, was convicted for alleged ties to the banned Lashkar-e-Islam and not for the US raid. He is currently being held in a jail in Peshawar.
“Our position on Dr Afridi has not changed. It’s long been clear. We believe his treatment is unjust and unwarranted,” Harf said.
“We regret that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence and would argue that his prosecution and conviction sends absolutely the wrong message about the fight against al- Qaeda, about the importance of our shared interest in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. So again, we’ll review the legislation and comply with whatever law ends up being put in place,” Harf said.
“Our position hasn’t changed, that I think his prosecution and conviction sends the wrong message about how important it was to bring the world’s most wanted terrorist to justice. I think that?s probably the only message I have for the Pakistani Government on this one,” she said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will host Sartaj Aziz, the National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor of Pakistan in Washington next week for the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue ministerial meeting.
This would be the first high-level meeting between the leaders of the two sides after October, when Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had met President Barack Obama at the White House and the two sides agreed to work together on meeting their common goal of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“We work with the Pakistani Government on a wide range of issues, whether it’s economic issues, environmental issues, energy issues certainly we talk about quite a bit, and obviously regional security issues,” Harf said.