US House puts tough ‘no terror’ conditions on Pakistan aid

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US Congress has passed a bill to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion in the next five years, but with stringent conditions demanding action against extremist groups on its soil and prevention of attacks into neighbouring countries.

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Though the compromise bill passed by House of Representatives Wednesday does not specifically mention India so as not to hurt Islamabad’s sensitivities, it specifically lists extremist movements like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the outfit behind 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The House vote on the compromise package to ramp up aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year through 2014 passed unanimously by the Senate last week paves the way for President Barack Obama, who has enthusiastically supported the measure, to take the final step with his signature.

“We need to forge a true strategic partnership with Pakistan and its people, strengthen its democratic government, and work to make Pakistan a source of stability in a volatile region,” said Congressman Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Terrorists currently sheltered in Pakistan’s lawless hinterlands are plotting to attack the US. This legislation helps give Pakistan the tools to defeat Al Qaeda.”

The final Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (S. 1701), which has the strong support of the entire Obama administration, also authorises military assistance to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat Al Qaeda and relevant insurgent elements, and requires that such assistance be focused principally on helping Pakistan with its critical counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism efforts.

It further establishes accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that the government of Pakistan has demonstrated a sustained effort to combating terrorist groups and has made significant efforts towards that end, as committed to by the government of Pakistan.

The compromise version with the Senate, where the bill was approved unanimously after lawmakers toned down some of the stricter conditions on the aid, also orders the Obama administration to ensure that Pakistan prevent any proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The US has voiced concern over freedom of movement given to notorious Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who five years ago admitted leaking nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The conditions specifically include six-monthly evaluations by Washington of efforts by Pakistan to A) disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida, the Taliban, and other extremist and terrorist groups in the FATA and settled areas; B) eliminate the safe havens of such forces in Pakistan; C) close terrorist camps, including those of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed; D) cease all support for extremist and terrorist groups; and (E) prevent attacks into neighbouring countries.

Section 203 of the bill enjoins the Secretary of State to certify that Pakistan has made progress on matters such as “ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries.”

The Secretary of State also has to certify that Pakistan is stopping terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries, dismantling terrorist bases of operations, including in Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.