Pushed on the back foot by the powerful military's criticism of some of the provisions in the US economic aid bill, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that the clauses of the Kerry-Lugar legislation are not binding on Pakistan.
Hours after a meeting of the corps commanders chaired by Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani expressed serious concern over clauses in the American legislation "impacting on national security", Gilani told parliament will act according to consensus. The Kerry-Lugar bill is "not a contract" and its clauses are "not binding" on Pakistan, Gilani said.
Any bill passed by the US Congress and Senate is not binding on Pakistan and it was up to the parliament to make a final decision in the matter, he said. The army's corps commanders decided to provide a "formal input" about their concerns to the Pakistan People's Party-led government, the military said in a statement.
Gilani said he had spoken to the military and received a letter from it on the Kerry-Lugar bill. Both President Asif Ali Zardari and Gen Kayani had been taken into confidence on the American legislation and the government will not "do anything on which there is no consensus", he said.
The military is particularly concerned about clauses in the bill which require the US Secretary of State to provide assessments every six months on whether Pakistan's civilian government has effective control over the armed forces, including "oversight and approval of military budgets" and the promotion for senior military leaders. Gilani sought to allay these concerns by making it clear that promotions in the Pakistani military will not "be decided elsewhere".
The premier also addressed the military's concerns about clauses in the Kerry-Lugar bill related to nuclear proliferation, saying: "We have never ever allowed access to our nuclear technology. This programme was started by the Pakistan Peoples Party and we will never allow access to the nuclear programme." The armed forces are "pro-democracy and professional" and are "working under the civilian government".
US President Barack Obama was apparently mindful of Pakistan's concerns as he had not yet signed the Kerry-Lugar bill, he said. Besides the army, the PPP-led government has also been criticised by the opposition for accepting the conditions included in the Kerry-Lugar bill. Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a senior PML-N member, said Pakistan had sacrificed more lives than the US and Britain in the war against terror but the Kerry-Lugar bill presented a "highly distorted picture of the country".
The clause in the bill that Pakistan could not divert US aid to its nuclear weapons programme effectively meant that the Americans would be "assessing and analysing our budget as well", Khan said, adding by accepting the bill, Pakistan will abdicate authority over its military and nuclear programme. Khan claimed each page of the Kerry-Lugar bill is "reflective of the insulting attitude" of the US towards Pakistan. The bill seeks to safeguard the interests of the US without caring for the interests of Pakistan, he said.