US panel links tripled aid to Pakistan with action against terror

May 21st, 2009 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 21 (IANS) A US House panel has approved a bill to triple US economic assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, but with stiff conditions requiring Islamabad to demonstrate a sustained commitment and progress towards combating terrorist groups.

Called the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement or the PEACE Act of 2009, the bill authorises military assistance to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat Al Qaeda and insurgent elements.

It requires that the vast majority of such assistance be focused on critical counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts and all military assistance flow through the democratically elected Government of Pakistan.

Finally, the legislation includes accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that the Government of Pakistan has demonstrated a sustained commitment to combating terrorist groups and has made progress towards that end.

“Contrary to what some have said, these are not ‘rigid’ or ‘inflexible’ conditions,” the 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 US-Pakistan relationship and support the US national security objectives in South Asia,” he said.

The original bill among other things required Pakistan “not to support any person or group that conducts violence, sabotage, or other activities meant to instil fear or terror in India.”

It also required Pakistan to ensure access of US investigators to “individuals suspected of engaging in worldwide proliferation of nuclear materials, and restrict such individuals from travel or any other activity that could result in further proliferation.”

“This legislation would massively expand economic, social and democracy assistance to Pakistan, and also provide a significant increase in military assistance,” Berman said, and create a new, more positive framework for US-Pakistan relations.

“We need to forge a true strategic partnership with Pakistan, strengthen its democratic government, and do what we can to make Pakistan a force for stability in a volatile region.”

The tripled economic assistance to Pakistan 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 establishes a permanent Pakistan Democracy and Prosperity Fund for non-military assistance, which demonstrates America’s long-term commitment to Pakistan’s democratic future.

To ensure that US assistance is truly benefiting the people of Pakistan, the legislation requires rigorous oversight and auditing, Berman said.

It establishes a set of principles that should govern US-Pakistan ties, including the actions that the two countries should take to maintain a robust, relevant and lasting relationship.

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