London: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has upped America`s criticism of Pakistan`s jailing of Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) track down Osama Bin Laden, suggesting it had hit efforts to steer diplomatic relations between Washington and Pakistan back on track.
According to The Guardian, Panetta said the 33-year prison sentence handed to Dr Afridi for treason was "so difficult to understand and so disturbing".
Dr Afridi had run a fake vaccination programme to collect the Al-Qaida chief`s DNA as part of a CIA scheme to prove he was living in the Abbottabad compound where he was eventually killed.
Last week, the US Senate committee retaliated for the sentencing by voting to cut Pakistan``s aid by 1million dollars for each of the 33 years handed down to Afridi.
"This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against Al-Qaida, and I hope Pakistan understands that because what they have done here doesn`t help re-establish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan," Panetta was quoted, as saying.
Panetta, who was CIA director when Bin Laden was killed, described the doctor as having been "very helpful" in gathering intelligence on the Al-Qaida leader.