WASHINGTON, June 26: Two US lawmakers will meet Ambassador Sherry Rehman on Wednesday to press for the release of Dr Shakil Afridi while a top American general travels to Islamabad to urge Pakistani leaders to stop cross-border incursions.
Embassy officials confirmed to Dawn that Republican Leader in the US Senate Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul are meeting Ambassador Rehman on Wednesday to seek Dr Afridi’s release. The physician from the Khyber Agency was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment after he helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden.
And the US media reported that Gen John Allen, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, was travelling to Pakistan to discuss the consequence of the attack last week on a Kabul hotel that killed more than 20 people.
The US blames the Fata-based Haqqani group for carrying out the attack. One of the two senators who are meeting Ambassador Rehman, Rand Paul, sponsored a measure earlier this month to withhold US foreign aid to Pakistan until Dr Afridi is released and allowed to leave Pakistan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, blocked a vote on the proposal.
But the senator is now seeking a direct vote on July 20, which calls for blocking all US assistance to Pakistan if Dr Afridi is not released.
Meanwhile, military officials told the US media that during his visit to Islamabad, Gen Allen would review border coordination with Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Gen Allen is also likely to raise mounting concern in Afghanistan about three attacks blamed on the Haqqani group, since April 15.
Gen Allen claims that last week’s attack on a Kabul hotel bore the signature of the Taliban-linked Haqqani group, which he said continued to operate from Pakistan.