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US seeks to triple non-military aid to Pakistan

April 04, 2009 11:47 IST

A bill has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives to triple non-military aid to Pakistan, amounting to a whopping $1.5 billion, as part of the new Af-Pak policy.

Planned for the next five years, the aid can be extended for another five years. However, the bill puts conditions on Pakistan's military, linking the aid with their success in fighting against terrorism.

US President Barack Obama announced the Af-Pak policy last Friday, in which he had asked the US Congress to support his administration's endeavour to provide massive non-military aid to Pakistan, which he termed as 'down payment and investment' into America's future and security.

The bill, carrying bi-partisan support, was introduced by Howard L Berman, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee. An identical bill is scheduled to be tabled in the US Senate anytime now.

"This bill has one essential purpose: to strengthen our relationship with Pakistan," Berman said on the floor of the House while introducing the bill. Berman said the bill also boosts military aid to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat al-Qaeda and other insurgent elements, but requires a majority of such assistance to be focused on critical counter terrorism efforts.

"Our commitment to Pakistan's political stability and economic development is matched only by our sense of urgency in ensuring that Pakistan has the right tools to protect its people, secure its borders and intensify its operations against extremist elements," he said.

Christened Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act (the PEACE Act), the bill triples US economic assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, with a particular emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting economic development and improving Pakistan's education system.

The bill, HR 1886, also establishes a permanent Pakistan Democracy and Prosperity Fund, which demonstrates America's long-term commitment to Pakistan, Berman said.

To ensure that US assistance is truly benefiting the Pakistani people, the legislation requires rigorous oversight and auditing of the funds sent through this bill. "In addition, the bill requires that all military assistance flow through the democratically elected government of Pakistan," he said.

"The bill was drafted with a clear understanding that we need to create a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan -- one that transcends our mutual counterinsurgency and counter terrorism goals, and speaks to the needs of average Pakistani citizens," Berman said. 

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