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US senators scandalized by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden have voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million -- one million for each year in the doctor's sentence.
"It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realize we are serious," said Senator Richard Durbin after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"It's outrageous that they (the Pakistanis) would say a man who helped us find Osama bin Laden is a traitor," said Durbin, the Senate's number two Democrat.
The amendment was offered by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat. Earlier in the week an appropriations subcommittee slashed aid to Islamabad and warned it would withhold more if Pakistan does not reopen supply routes for NATO soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, was sentenced to 33 years in jail Wednesday on charges of treason. He was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track down bin Laden in a Pakistani town.
The al Qaeda leader was killed in the town of Abbottabad a year ago in a unilateral U.S. special forces raid that heavily damaged ties between Islamabad and Washington. Since then, there have been growing calls in the U.S. Congress to cut off some or all of U.S. aid.
Pakistan has been one of the leading recipients of U.S. foreign aid in recent years. Even after the cuts voted this week it still would receive about $1 billion in fiscal 2013, if the full Senate and House of Representatives approve.