RTTNews - A U.S. Congressional panel has recommended a bill to triple U.S. economic assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, but dropped an explicit demand for access to disgraced nuclear smuggler Abdul Qadir Khan and preventing terrorist attacks against India as conditions, reports say.
In marking up the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act (HR 1886 or Peace Act), the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), the panel, however, imposed stiff conditions requiring Islamabad to demonstrate a sustained commitment and progress towards combating terrorist groups.
Under pressure from the Obama administration, the panel took cognizance of Pakistan's objections that it felt humiliated by language implicating the country in nuclear proliferation and cross-border terrorism, particularly mention of its low-grade war on India.
The committee reworked the language to say Pakistan would have to be providing access to Pakistani nationals connected to proliferation networks, ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups and preventing cross-border attacks into neighboring countries as conditions for U.S. security assistance.
The tripled economic assistance focuses on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting economic development and improving Pakistan's public education system, with an emphasis on access for women and girls.
The bill also seeks to establish a permanent Pakistan Democracy and Prosperity Fund for non-military assistance, which demonstrates America's long-term commitment to Pakistan's democratic future.
The bill authorizes military assistance to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat Al-Qaida and insurgent elements. It requires that a vast majority of such assistance be utilized for critical counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts and all military assistance flow through the democratically- elected Government of Pakistan.
The legislation includes accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that the Pakistan government has demonstrated a sustained commitment to combating terrorist groups and has made progress towards that end.
Making no secret that the bill would still hold Pakistan accountable on specific benchmarks, Ed Royce, a Republican member from California, said in a statement that Congress is sending an important signal--that we must see progress on A.Q. Khan, ISI, and terrorists targeting U.S. troops and neighboring India.
Contrary to what some have said, these are not 'rigid' or 'inflexible' conditions, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard L. Berman said. He had insisted on including strict restrictions against Pakistan in return for the aid despite Obama administration's opposition.
To ensure that the president has sufficient flexibility, we provide a waiver if he is unable to make the determinations. I think this is an excellent bill that will strengthen the critical U.S.-Pakistan relationship and support the U.S. national security objectives in South Asia, he said.
To ensure that U.S. assistance is truly benefiting the people of Pakistan, the legislation requires rigorous oversight and auditing, Berman said.
The House committee bill now goes before the full House even as similar legislation--introduced by Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and the top Republican on the panel Richard Lugar--makes its way through the U.S. Senate.
The Kerry-Lugar bill frames the conditions in a broader context conditioning military aid on certification that seek total commitment from Pakistan in its efforts to prevent Al-Qaida and associated terrorist groups from operating from its territory and advocates strict accountability of the funds given to Islamabad.
The two bills will then be discussed and reconciled at a 'conference'--where the administration is expected to side with the less punitive Senate legislation--to arrive at one single bill, which will be voted and sent to the President for signature.
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