|Daily News Brief |
May 25, 2012
Top of the Agenda: Deepening Tensions Between the United States and Pakistan
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan increased on Thursday as a U.S. Senate panel voted to further cut aid to Pakistan by $33 million (NYT). The move came after a Pakistani court sentenced Shakil Afridi, a doctor who assisted the CIA in tracking down Osama bin Laden last year, to thirty-three years in prison for committing treason. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were already strained at a NATO summit earlier this week when they failed to reach an agreement on re-opening a NATO supply route between Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time, CIA drone strikes in northwestern Pakistan persisted for a second day on Thursday, despite vocal opposition by Pakistani officials.
"While Afridi's sentencing may not be tied directly to Washington's alleged snub to Zardari in Chicago, there is no doubt that the harsh punishment was approved at the highest levels of government to make a point to both the U.S. and to Pakistani citizens. It's clear that the government wanted to make an example of Afridi," write Newsweek's Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai.
"America's larger strategic goals in South Asia have justified engagement with a difficult partner in Islamabad, but Pakistan would be foolish to take America's support and patience for granted. The U.S. has other options in the region. With very few friends, Pakistan does not," says this Wall Street Journal editorial."His sentence is likely to renew the debate on what constitutes patriotism and treason in this (joint) war against militancy. Much of the discourse is bound to focus on the hatching of a conspiracy of which Dr Afridi's fake vaccination scheme was a part. While the proponents of this view would have some justification to question a unilateral U.S. operation on Pakistani soil of which Pakistan was not informed, other aspects of the debate should be considered," says this editorial in Dawn, a Pakistan-based newspaper.