A day after its powerful army expressed "serious concern" over some of the provisions in the US economic aid bill, the Pakistan government said on Thursday that the legislation is "not an ideal document" and that it is not binding on it to accept clauses laid in it.
Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit said the Kerry- Lugar Bill that envisages the provision of 7.5 billion dollars in economic aid over five years is not a bilateral pact. "The Kerry-Lugar bill is not a negotiated document. It is a piece of legislation drafted by the US Congress and it is not binding for Pakistan to accept it," he told the weekly news briefing.
Besides his remarks at the news briefing, Basit also told reporters that the US bill is "not an ideal document" and its "language could have been better". Basit's comments came a day after the Army expressed "serious concerns" about clauses in the legislation that it said would impact Pakistan's national security interests. The ruling Pakistan People's Party, which has pulled out all stops to endorse the bill, was put on the back foot by the army's criticism.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said the Kerry-Lugar bill's conditions are not binding on Pakistan and that his government will seek to forge consensus on the issue among political parties and all stakeholders. Basit also noted that the US President could send the bill back to the Congress for review but it was "not for Pakistan to comment on or judge" the matter.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will brief parliament on the bill after his return to the country on Friday from a visit to the US, he said. The spokesman evaded several pointed questions on the Kerry-Lugar bill, including one on whether the army could debate the legislation and give its views on it, and said it would be better to let parliament complete its discussions on the issue and take an independent decision.
Replying to a question, Basit said the Foreign Office had given its input on all important foreign policy issues, including the Kerry-Lugar bill. Pakistan has also conveyed its inputs on the bill to the US Congress and the Obama administration, he said. The Pakistani military is particularly concerned about clauses in the bill which require the US Secretary of State to provide assessments every six months on whether Pakistans civilian government has effective control over the armed forces, including "oversight and approval of military budgets" and the promotion for senior military leaders. Gilani has sought to allay these concerns by making it clear that promotions in the Pakistani military will not "be decided elsewhere".