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US Senate passes massive Pakistan aid bill

Last updated on: September 25, 2009 02:49 IST
Shrugging aside the recent reports of Pakistan illegally modifying the United States-supplied harpoon missiles to target India and former President Pervez Musharraf's revelations that he diverted the massive American military aid provided to Pakistan to fight the war on terror to the eastern border to bolster his country's defenses for a potential convention conflict with India, the US Senate passed a massive $7.5 billion economic and military largesse to Pakistan.

The passage of the Kerry-Lugar bill was designed to coincide and be a major boost to Pakistan on the same day that US President Barack Obama, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were chairing the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Summit in New York.

President Obama on Thursday said that the US 'shares an interest in the success of the Pakistani people. We stand with them -- as friends, and as partners -- on behalf of a future with greater security and prosperity; and we stand with the institutions of Pakistan's government as they seek to strengthen their democracy.'

"Through the Friends of Democratic Pakistan -- and through our bilateral relationship -- the United States is firmly committed to the future that the Pakistani people deserve -- a future that will advance our common security and prosperity. That is why my administration has pledged substantial support for Pakistan, and the US Congress has worked aggressively and effectively to expand development and economic assistance," Obama added.

Twenty-six countries and international institutions, including the co-chairs were participating in the summit.

Congressional sources told rediff.com that the White House and Senators John F Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking Republican, Richard Lugar, had decided on the Senate approving the aid package on the day of the summit so that President Obama could announce it and give the summit a boost and also be a necessary shot in the arm in so far as the US taking the lead but hoping that the Senate action would be catalytic to getting the other donors to weigh in too.

Congressman Howard L Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also welcomed passage of the bill.

"After many weeks of discussion and negotiation, this step now clears the way for US efforts to help create a better future for Pakistan," Berman said. "Our bicameral, bipartisan legislation demonstrates our intention to cement effective partnerships with the people, leaders, and institutions of Pakistan.  I look forward to seeing it pass the House soon," he added.

The original Berman legislation contained some stringent conditionality and provisions that the aid not be targeted to India and that Pakistan restrain elements within its territory from launching cross-border terrorism against India and neighboring countries, but these conditions were all quashed when the Obama administration and the Kerry-Lugar cabal came down hard on Berman to remove these provisions and finally the bill that emerged from the House Foreign Affairs Committee was a veritable clone of the Kerry-Lugar legislation sans any tough conditions.

Full text of the press statement released by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations after the passage of the bill:

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Unanimously Passes Legislation To Increase Nonmilitary Aid To Pakistan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) welcomed passage by the United State Senate of a revised version of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, which will triple non-military aid Pakistan. The bill, S. 1707, updates and builds upon the earlier S. 962 passed by the Senate in June.   

Senator Kerry said, "Today, by unanimous consent, the Senate passed S.1707,  the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009. This Act represents a collaboration between both Democrats and Republicans, in both Senate and the House, to forge a new long-term relationship between the people of America and Pakistan. The fact that President Obama was able to announce this at the United Nations sends an important message to Pakistan and the world of our strengthened commitment to this relationship.

"The fundamentals of the bill are precisely those enshrined in the version passed by the Senate in June: Tripling of non-military aid to $1.5 billion per year, for each of the next five years— with a Congressional recommendation that this commitment to roads, schools, and other projects directly benefiting the Pakistani people be continued for an additional half-decade.  The clear, tough-minded accountability standards and metrics contained in the original bill are carried through in this version.  The legislation passed today incorporates House language compatible with the intent of the original  bill, and is the product of two months of bicameral, bipartisan, and inter-branch consultation.

"I am delighted by the action of my colleagues today—and by the unanimity displayed in the Senate vote.  This landmark piece of legislation is the product of careful consultation between both Chambers, and both sides of the aisle: I salute my friends Dick Lugar and Howard Berman for their leadership.  It is my hope and expectation that the House will pass this bill speedily, so that the President can sign it into law without delay."

Senator Lugar said, "The United States has an intense strategic interest in Pakistan and the surrounding region. The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate last year painted a bleak picture of the converging crises in Pakistan. A growing al-Qaeda sanctuary, an expanding Taliban insurgency, political brinksmanship, and a failing economy are intensifying turmoil and violence in that country. These circumstances are a threat to Pakistan, the region, and the United States.

"We should make clear to the people of Pakistan that our interests are focused on democracy, pluralism, stability, and the fight against terrorism. These are values supported by a large majority of the Pakistani people. If Pakistan is to break its debilitating cycle of instability, it will need to achieve progress on fighting corruption, delivering government services, and promoting broad based economic growth. The international community and the United States should support reforms that contribute to the strengthening of Pakistani civilian institutions."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC