Rohrabacher Amends Defense Bill To Push Human Rights In Pakistan
WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Thursday successfully amended the defense spending bill to call for the release of a jailed doctor who helped Americans find Osama Bin Laden. The Pakistani physician, Dr. Shakil Afridi, was arrested, tortured, and jailed after leading U.S. forces to the al-Qaeda leader’s secret compound near Pakistani military facilities.
Three weeks after the 2011 raid on the compound, in which Bin Laden was killed without the knowledge of Pakistani officials, Dr. Afridi, who has said he cooperated with American searchers out of love for the United States, was arrested on a charge of supporting another militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam. The doctor has denied any such association, and his trial has been widely seen as a sham.
Thursday’s House vote took place exactly three years to the day, May 22, 2011, that Dr. Afridi was jailed, blindfolded, and beaten, his personal belongings taken from him. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison, a sentence that has since been slightly reduced under pressure.
The Rohrabacher amendment reads in part: “The Government of Pakistan’s imprisonment of Dr. Afridi presents a serious and growing impediment to the United States’ bilateral relations with Pakistan.”
Between 2002 and 2014 Pakistan has received more than $28 billion from U.S. taxpayers, most of it marked for military and security purposes.
The amendment concludes: “It is the sense of Congress that Dr. Shakil Afridi is an international hero and that the Government of Pakistan should release him immediately from prison.”
In another amendment to the defense spending authorization bill, Rep. Rohrabacher stipulated that U.S. funds not be used by the Pakistani government “to persecute minority groups for their legitimate and nonviolent political and religious beliefs, including the Bolochi, Sindhi, and Hazara ethnic groups and minority religious groups, including Christian, Hindu, and Ahmadiyya Muslim.”
Despite a veto threat from President Obama, House members voted 325 to 98 to pass the defense spending bill, which authorizes $590 billion to fund the U.S. military in fiscal 2015.