Pakistan could lose $15 bn US economic aid

January 31st, 2009 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaIslamabad, Jan 31 (IANS) Pakistan could lose $15 billion in US economic aid over the next 10 years with the Barack Obama administration seemingly in no hurry to revive a bill that has lapsed in Congress, even as it has turned the screws on Islamabad for not doing enough in the war against terror.The first tranche of an annual $1.5 billion was to have been received this year.

“Biden-Luger bill on hold during US transition,” Dawn said in a despatch Saturday.

The bill “is legally dead even before it was debated and voted by either chamber of the US bicameral legislature”, The News said under the sub-head “US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms death of the bill”.

There is no time-line for introducing a new bill in Congress, a spokesperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told the newspaper.

Even so, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani has put up a brave face, telling the private GEO TV channel that the bill had not been sidelined and remained an integral component of future Pakistan-US relations.

He reiterated that the expiry of the bill was a technicality of the transition of power within the United States and the bill would soon be reintroduced.

Bill S-3263, popularly known as “Biden-Lugar bill” or “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act 2008″ was introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by its then chairman, Senator Joseph Biden, who is now the vice president, and Senator Richard Lugar.

The Senate Committee had approved the bill unanimously “but it died before it could be tabled before the Senate for debate and vote”, The News said.

An official of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The News: “Bill S-3263 is dead as it was not debated and approved by the 110th US Congress that completed its term by the end of 2008.”

When the committee unanimously approved the bill in July 2008, “Pakistan’s government was jubilant to portray it as symbol of US support to Pakistan’s return to democracy”.

Hours after its inauguration Jan 20, the new Obama administration served notice to Pakistan that it will hold Islamabad accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

“It is interesting to note that just when Joe Biden was receiving Pakistan’s highest civilian award (in January) in Islamabad, the Biden-Lugar bill was already dead,” The News noted.

Officials here said Biden had been honoured for his efforts at improving Pakistan-US ties.

When the newspaper contacted the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a spokesperson said a new bill would need to be drafted and introduced in the Senate at the very beginning of the legislative procedure.

She also pointed out that the new bill, even with similar contents and clauses, will have to complete the entire legislative process in both houses of the US Congress.

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