Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician, helped U.S. intelligence agents track down Osama bin Laden. Now U.S. officials must try to help Dr. Afridi out of a stunning 33-year sentence for that praiseworthy act, which the Pakistani “justice” system condemns as “high treason.”
That appalling court decision, issued Wednesday, is merely the latest evidence of Pakistan’s unreliability in the fight against terrorism.
That shaky status was evident long before bin Laden met his overdue fate during a Navy SEALs team’s daring raid on an Abbottabad compound where he had been living for at least five years — about a mile from an elite Pakistani military school.
It’s also been no secret that bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders, once ousted from their Afghan bases by the U.S.-led intervention soon after 9/11, found lasting refuge across the border in Pakistan. And for more than six months, Pakistani officials have refused to re-open crucial NATO supply routes closed after a U.S. air strike accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Still, there’s something particularly galling about the persecution of Dr. Afridi, who used his vaccination clinic to help the CIA pinpoint bin Laden’s location through DNA tests. Rightly regarded as a hero by the Americans he assisted, he’s now wrongly condemned to what would amount to life in prison as a criminal villain by our alleged “allies” who run Pakistan.
The Senate Appropriations Committee fairly responded Thursday by voting unanimously for South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham’s proposal to cut aid to Pakistan by $33 million — $1 million for each year of Dr. Afridi’s sentence.
That bipartisan action aptly reflected what Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., dubbed “common outrage” over the persecution of Dr. Afridi. In reduced, in addition to earlier cuts, President Barack Obama’s request for funding to Pakistan by 58 percent.
Sen. Graham explained: “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.”
Unfortunately, though, our relationship with Pakistan remains a high-stakes challenge. Though its government is undependable, it is preferable to radical Islamic groups that want to take over Pakistan. And while the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is ominous, Pakistan already has them.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton struck an aptly stern tone Thursday while defending Dr. Afridi: “His help was instrumental in taking down one of the world’s most notorious murderers. That was clearly in Pakistan’s interest as well as ours and the rest of the world.”
And Pakistan clearly needs to show more interest in acting like America’s ally.