$7.5 bn US aid proposed for Pakistan

July 16th, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban

Islamabad, July 16 (IANS) Non-military aid to Pakistan could be tripled to $7.5 billion over five years if the US Congress clears a bill, a newspaper report here Wednesday said. Joseph Robinette Biden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced the bill Tuesday proposing $1.5 billion annually for five years for developmental activities like building schools, roads and health clinics, a dispatch from Washington in The News daily said.

“The non-military aid is a major shift in US-Pakistan relations with the bill authorising a figure more than triple the current levels of non-military funding,” the newspaper said.

The “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2008″, if passed, also advocates an additional $7.5 billion over the subsequent five years.

Biden said the bill was meant to demonstrate that the US was not a fair-weather ally but an all-weather friend of Pakistan.

“The 10-year time-frame is intended to address persistent Pakistani fears that the US is interested in a short-term tactical and highly transactional relationship,” he said while moving the bill.

At the same time, the bill conditions future military aid on certification by the Secretary of State that Pakistani security forces are “not materially interfering in the political or judicial process of Pakistan”; making concerted efforts to prevent terrorists from operating inside the country, and making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban from using its territory.

The military aid conditions incorporate long-standing US demands for increased Pakistani cooperation against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and for the military to refrain from interfering in the democratic process, a statement issued by Biden’s media office said.

“They (the conditions) provide powerful leverage for the administration to obtain better results for the billions we spend,” the statement added.

Biden, who drafted the bill in tandem with Senator Richard Lugar, said at a joint press conference that it was a bipartisan effort and “there’s a great amount of support from the house”.

The bill urges reorientation of US engagement toward the Pakistani people rather than merely toward the Pakistani government.

From the Pakistani perspective, Biden said, America is an unreliable ally, and whose support to date has merely bolstered unrepresentative rulers, both in and out of uniform.

“We need to change this arrangement into the type of normal, functional relationship we enjoy with all of our military allies and friendly nations,” Biden maintained.

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