Top democrat proposes tripling non-military aid to Pakistan

June 26th, 2008 - 11:19 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 26 (IANS) A day after an independent audit pointed to Pakistan getting $5.6 billion in US funds to fight terrorism without proper oversight, a top Democratic senator proposed tripling non-military aid to Islamabad to $1.5 billion a year. Proposing a restriction on money given for anti-terrorism operations, Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday the US has too little to show for the billions spent reimbursing Islamabad to go after terrorists along its troubled Afghan border.

At the same time, not enough is being done to build schools, hospital clinics and roads in the region, where extremists have found refuge, he said at a hearing of his panel. “We believe we’re paying too much and getting too little. The Pakistanis believe exactly the opposite,”

“Both sides feel that the costs of the relationship may soon outweigh the benefits,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”

The Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday that the US has little proof that the $5.6 billion given to Pakistan to go after terrorists since 2001 has been used for that purpose. Overall, the US has given Pakistan $10.8 billion in economic and military aid since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Testifying before the committee, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said the administration was open to considering Biden’s approach.

“While we do not agree on every point in the current version of the proposed legislation, we welcome this initiative and feel strongly that a new, bipartisan commitment to partnership with Pakistan is crucial,” Boucher said.

Voicing Washington’s support for the new Pakistan government’s success in meeting development and security challenges, he said: “We want to see this new government to succeed because they represent desires of the Pakistani people and because we believe that a moderate government with a democratic mandate is the most effective partner in the fight against violent extremism.”

He welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s statement on Islamabad’s resolve to address the problem of violent extremism through a multi-pronged strategy and noted it aims at ending cross-border violence, expelling any foreign fighters and stabilising the tribal areas by working with the tribes.

“That is a very important development and we look forward to working with Pakistan,” he said expressing support for a multi-faceted approach to addressing extremism in the country’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

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