US threatens to cut aid to Pakistan

February 9th, 2011 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 9 (IANS) Even as the US publicly suggested that every thing was hunky dory in its relations with Islamabad, US Congress members threatened to stop aid to Pakistan unless it releases a detained American.The increased US pressure on Pakistan Tuesday came amid reports that Washington has suspended high-level contacts with Islamabad to seek the release of Raymond Davis, a US government employee detained over the shooting deaths of two Pakistani men.

The United States insists Davis, who was arrested on Jan 27 after shooting the two Pakistanis, enjoys diplomatic immunity. Davis said he acted in self-defence fearing they would rob him.

A third Pakistani was run over and killed by a US consulate vehicle that had come to assist Davis, according to police.

Three members of the US House of Representatives drove home the point on a visit to Pakistan, telling Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that Congress was working on its budget and looking for areas to cut.

“It is imperative that they release him and there is certainly the possibility that there would be repercussions if they don’t,” John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said on his return.

“My guess is there would be a lot of support for such an amendment, frankly, because of the outrage of detaining an American with diplomatic immunity.”

Asked if aid would be at risk if Davis stayed in custody, Buck McKeon, who heads the House Armed Services Committee, said: “It very well could be.”

Publicly, the State Department denies any slowdown in high-level contacts, even while emphasising the impact on bilateral relations that any continued detention of Davis could have.

“We continue to have contacts with the Pakistani government,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Tuesday.

“We continue to express to them the importance of resolving this. And we continue to express to them the fact that our US diplomat has diplomatic immunity and should be released.”

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani also wrote on Twitter that relations between the two countries “have proved resilient in the past” and that the “strategic partnership will endure, notwithstanding challenges”.

Congress, in 2009, approved a five-year, $7.5bn aid package to build schools, infrastructure and democratic institutions. The US administration has also proposed another $2bn in assistance for Pakistan’s military.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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