John Kerry calls for stronger US ties with Pakistan

Sen. John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts) was recently confirmed as US Secretary of State, replacing Hilary Clinton. At his confirmation hearing, however, Sen. Kerry was grilled by Sen. Rand Paul (Ruplican, Kentucky) — son of well-known libertarian Ron Paul — about his position on the US going to war, and on his position in regard to Pakistan.

Sen. Paul questioned whether Kerry would be willing to condition aid to Pakistan on the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the Pakistani physician who was imprisoned after aiding the US in its search for Osama bin Laden. According to the Pakistan-based newspaper Dawn.com, “A judicial commission investigating the circumstances leading to the death of Al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden in a US navy seal raid in the northern city of Abbottabad in May, 2011, had recommended in October last that Afridi be charged with high treason.”

Afridi was tried by a tribal court, which does not permit the defendant to speak in his own defense. He was found guilty, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. The physician was then taken to the Central Prison in Peshawar.

Kerry responded that although he found it “incomprehensible, if not repugnant that someone who helped to find Osama bin Laden is in jail in Pakistan,” that he did not believe that aid should be cut aid to “a relationship that has a lot of interests.” Kerry added that he believed Pakistan had not received enough credit for the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

Although Kerry said he would raise the issue of Afridi, he said that he believed the US needed to “build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it.”