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US: Bill to triple non-military aid to Pak passed

October 01, 2009 01:58 IST

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion in the next five years with riders demanding strong counter-terrorism measures and preventing attacks on the West or its neighbours like India.

The voice vote comes a week after Senate passed the bill unanimously. The Bicameral Legislation now goes to US President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill also says the US President has to report annually that Pakistan is making progress on counter-terrorism measures and is not letting its soil being used by Al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups against other countries.

"We need to forge a true strategic partnership with Pakistan and its people, strengthen its democratic government, and work to make it 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 United States. This legislation helps give Pakistan the tools to defeat Al Qaeda," he said.

Having the backing of the entire Obama Administration, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (S 1701) triples US democratic, economic, and social development assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year from fiscal years 2010 to 2014.

The bill was initially introduced in the Senate by Joe Biden, then in the capacity as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and its ranking member, Senator Dick Lugar.

Since then the bill has seen several changes and is now called Kerry-Lugar bill as it has been introduced by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Lugar.

The final legislation passed by both the chambers of the US Congress was based on a compromise between bills passed earlier by the Senate and House.

The bill will particularly focus on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting economic development, and improving Pakistan's public education system.

The legislation 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 Islamabad with its critical counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism efforts.

Following the concerns raised by several lawmakers, it also establishes accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that Pakistan has demonstrated a sustained effort to combating terrorist groups and has made significant efforts towards that end, as committed to by it.

"Pakistan faces a difficult political military and economic environment," Berman said, adding, "Working in partnership with Pakistan's leaders to address some of their most pressing concerns is critical to restoring bilateral trust that is essential to advancing key national security interests of both the countries".

The bill text combines legislation first introduced in the House (HR 1886), and then in the Senate (S. 962).

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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