WASHINGTION: In a meeting with Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman, US Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul stressed for Dr Shakil Afridi’s release.
In a press release issued by the Embassy of Pakistan, Ambassador Rehman met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, and had a separate meeting with Senator Rische on Wednesday afternoon.
The press release said that the Senators raised concerns over Dr Shakil Afridi’s conviction and subsequent detention. They also discussed the re-opening of Ground Lines of Communications and take action against the Haqqani Network.
Ambassador Rehman, according to the handout, told the Senators that Dr Afridi has been convicted on charges of helping a declared terror outfit, the Lashkar-e-Islam, and his lawyers would be filing an appeal. Additionally, the Ambassador said the Pakistan government could not interfere in the judicial process.
Ambassador Rehman also said that Dr Afridid did not know that he had been contracted by the CIA to find Osama Bin Laden. “Dr Afridi’s actions have seriously jeopardised Pakistan’s efforts to fight disease and polio, particularly among children.”
She emphasised that Dr Afridi’s case needs to be handled in a prudent fashion.
Cross-border attacks and apology
The Ambassador reiterated that an apology on the Salala incident would help provide closure on this issue, and expressed hope that the US and Pakistan will be able to reach an understanding soon on the re-opening of the Nato supply routes.
“On sanctuaries in Pakistan, Ambassador stressed that Pakistan had no tolerance for militant groups and our actions in Swat, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency and South Waziristan proved it,” said the press release.
The ambassador told the Senators that militants forced out of Pakistan have often found safe haven in Afghanistan. She added that in the past month, three major attacks have been launched from Afghanistan which have led to the death of 18 soldiers.
“The continued presence of these sanctuaries in Afghanistan in the face of US, NATO and Afghanistan’s combined military might is beyond explanation,” questioned Ambassador Rehman.
The press release said that both parties agreed “on the importance of overcoming the current stalemate in the bilateral relationship urgently and to work for robust and even keeled relationship based on mutual respect.”
Senator Paul had earlier introduced a bill calling for all US assistance to Pakistan to be cut off until Dr Afridi was released.