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US imposes tough restrictions on aid to Pak

By Lalit K Jha
October 23, 2009 10:22 IST
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The United States Congress on Friday passed a bill that sets tough new restrictions on military assistance to Pakistan and seeks determination from the Barack Obama administration that the fund will not be used to affect the 'balance of power in the region'.

The Defence Authorisation Bill for 2010 includes the amendments by Senators Bob Menendez and Bob Corker, according to which the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of State are required to give a determination that the payment is both in the national interest of the US and it will not affect the balance of power in the region.

The determination has to be given before Pakistan is reimbursed with Coalition Support Fund. The new limits also include efforts to track where US military hardware sent to Pakistan eventually ends up.

The US Senate voted 68-29 in favour of the $680 billion defence spending bill, which was earlier adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of 281-146 on October 8. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his approval.

The move came as the Pakistani military fought through the sixth day of a major offensive against militants in the restive South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold.

"We can't lose sight of the very reason Pakistan receives these funds: they are a reimbursement for expenses incurred fighting terrorists and supporting US-led efforts to do the same," said Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey.

"That fight is important to our own national security, and we have to ensure that our support for it is not being squandered or diverted. It is not only right for us to ensure that American taxpayer money does what it is intended to do, it is our duty as stewards of  national security and of taxpayer money," he said.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, Pakistan has received approximately $7.6 billion from the US as Coalition Support Funds to fight the 'war on terrorism'.

"This provision simply ensures that the American peoples' tax dollars are being used for their intended purpose," Republican Corker said.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had in September said that military aid provided by the US during his tenure had been used to strengthen defences against India.

The bill says the Pentagon must certify that Islamabad is waging a 'concerted' fight against the Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants before it can receive the massive aid package.

It directs the Pentagon to track how Pakistan uses military hardware it receives in order "to prohibit the re-transfer of such defence articles and defence services without the consent of the United States."

The legislation directs the White House to send lawmakers a report every 180 days on progress toward long-term security and stability in Pakistan.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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