Washington: Shocked over Pakistan sentencing a doctor, who helped the CIA to find al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, two top American Senators on Wednesday asked the authorities there to pardon and release him immediately.
"It is shocking and outrageous that Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who assisted the US in the search for Osama bin Laden, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for the crime of treason," Senators John McCain and Carl Levin said in a joint statement.
"We call upon the Pakistani government to pardon and release Afridi immediately.
At a time when the US and Pakistan need more than ever to work constructively together, Afridi`s continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to US-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress`s willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan," the two Senators said.
McCain and Levin said what Afridi did is the furthest thing from treason.
It was a courageous, heroic, and patriotic act, which helped to locate the most wanted terrorist in the world a mass murderer who had the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands, they argued.
Afridi`s actions were completely consistent with the multiple, legally-binding resolutions passed over many years by the UNSC, which required member-states to assist in bringing Osama and his al Qaeda network to justice.
Afridi set an example that we wish others in Pakistan had followed long ago, they said, adding, "He should be praised and rewarded for his actions, not punished and slandered".
Meanwhile, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said that the sentencing of Afridi was yet another proof that Pakistan sees itself being at war with the United States.
"This is decisive proof Pakistan sees itself as being at war with us," Rohrabacher said after Afridi was sentenced to 33 years of rigorous imprisonment by a Pakistani court as it found him guilty of "spying on al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden without bringing it to the notice of the government of Pakistan".
Rohrabacher, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, demanded punitive action against Pakistan.
"Pakistan was invited to the NATO summit to foster cooperation, but no cooperation was evident. Pakistan is still keeping supply lines to NATO forces in Afghanistan blocked. As NATO withdraws, Pakistan sees its chance to increase its use of terrorist groups as its vanguard for taking over Afghanistan and spreading radical Islam throughout the region.
We need to enlist Russia and India to support anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan such as the Northern Alliance. The Taliban is only the tip of the spear, the real enemy is Pakistan," Rohrabacher said.
"There is no shared interest against Islamic terrorism," he said and urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to voice protest against it.
"On 9/11, Pakistan was coordinating the efforts of the Taliban who were in league with Osama Bin Laden. In 2012, Pakistan is still working very closely with the Taliban, whose leader Mullah Omar was plotting with Bin Laden right up until he was killed, according to documents taken from bin Laden`s Pakistan home. Pakistan was and remains a terrorist state," he said.
In February, Rohrabacher introduced two pieces of legislation to aid Afridi and draw attention to his desperate situation.
HR 4069 would award Afridi the Congressional Gold Medal for his bravery in locating the world`s most wanted terrorist while HR 3901 is a bill that would grant Afridi US citizenship to demonstrate America has not forgotten him and show the US stands by him in recognition of his selfless acts, he said.
"I am very dismayed that neither of these bills has been brought to the House floor for a vote. Afridi came through for the American people, now it is our time to come through for him," Rohrabacher said.
The Congressman said he has been leading the fight in Congress to cut off all aid to Pakistan, USD 2.2 billion of which has been authorised.
"Advocates of aid argue we should draw a distinction between the civilian government and the military-intelligence cabal who are supporting terrorist groups that murder Americans," he said.
"But President (Asif Ali) Zadari`s behavior at the NATO summit in Chicago indicates that he is either in league with the military or under their domination. Any money that goes to Islamabad will continue to end up in the pockets of people actively and deadly hostile to America," he alleged.
Rohrabacher said Clinton will have to do more than voice protests over the Afridi case.
"Both the Departments of State and Defense need to take punitive actions against Pakistan. Carrots are not enough when dealing with an adversary.
Sticks are needed to prove we are serious. Cutting off aid to the regime while providing support to groups like the Baluchi people who are oppressed by Islamabad will send a message that it doesn`t pay to confront America," he demanded.