US to allay lawmakers concern over financial assistance to Pak

December 11th, 2007 - 1:47 pm ICT by admin  

Lahore, Dec 11 (ANI): The Bush Administration, seeking to deflect congressional pressure from its Pakistan policy, is shifting the way it channelises financial aid to the Musharraf Government, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported.
Since 2004, the US State Department has provided straight budget support to Islamabad equalling 200 million dollars a year under a wider three billion-dollar, five-year aid package.
US officials have targeted that money to developing Pakistans education and health programmes, as well as to aid Pakistans Finance Ministry in achieving specific budget targets.
However, several US lawmakers have voiced concerns over Washington not being able to come up with a sure-fire means of guaranteeing that the money isnt being diverted, the WSJ said.
Those fears have grown since Musharraf last month imposed an emergency, which he has said he will lift by December 16, the article added.
US lawmakers have also voiced fears that Washingtons aid might be diverted into security operations targeting pro-democracy activists and independent media.
Seeking to assuage these concerns, the State Department has said that it would cease providing the equivalent of blank cheques to Pakistans Finance Ministry and would distribute 200 million dollars through specific development projects instead, the WSJ said.
Contractors and non-government organisations approved by the US Agency for International Development, the article said will oversee those programs.
“Weve decided at this point that well take the 200 million dollars this year and spend it directly through aid, projects and contractors,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher said.
He said his office is seeking to make sure it knows “exactly how the money is being spent and exactly who its going to”.
Democratic lawmakers welcomed Bouchers decision and said it would likely help the passage of an aid budget for Pakistan equalling 845 million dollars for the fiscal year ending September 2008, the article said.
That would include 60 million dollars to develop Pakistans Federally Administered Tribal. It also includes roughly 342 million dollars for Pakistans security forces and its spending on equipment and education, the Daily Times reported. (ANI)

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