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McConnell: 'Tortured relationship' complicates effort to free jailed Pakistani doctor

by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 8, 2012 at 7:49 AM

Updated Sunday, Jul 8 at 6:42 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells WHAS11 News that he has not yet decided whether to sign on to a Senate maneuver that will force a vote whether to suspend foreign aid to Pakistan.

"I think it's important to maintain a good relationship with Pakistan," McConnell said in an interview.  "We have a mixed relationship with them.  Some of the people in Pakistan seem to be on our side and some not.  What we are extremely unhappy with at the moment is their incarceration of the doctor who helped us get Osama Bin Laden."

The push for the cloture vote later this month is being organized by fellow Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul.
Paul says he has secured the signatures of 16 senators who want to cancel the aid in protest of Pakistan's imprisonment of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who is hailed as a hero in the United States for using the cover of a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down the terrorist.

"I now have gotten 16 signatures for what's called a cloture petition which allows me to force a vote when nobody else really wants it other than the 16 of us," Paul told WHAS11.  "But we're going to have a vote on ending Pakistan's foreign aid if he doesn't get released.  He has an appeal July 19.  My plan is within a few days of his appeal if he's not released, we'll have a vote on ending their aid."

McConnell and Paul met recently with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

"We have a very, very tortured relationship with Pakistan," McConnell said.  "They seem to be playing both sides.  If they were not a nuclear armed country, we'd probably have less concern about it.  It's a delicate relationship.  I hope it never comes to completely severing entirely our ties with Pakistan."

After a secret trial, Pakistan said Afridi's conviction was for "anti-state activities" and that he supported a militant group.

Both McConnell and Paul, however, say they believe those are trumped up charges and that Afridi is really being punished for helping America.

"We think this is an outrage," McConnell said.  "He's been imprisoned - in effect we think - on cooked up charges as a result of helping us, in effect, get Osama bin Laden."

"That's simply unacceptable. We're doing everything possible to get him out."