M A I N   N E W S

US aid to Pak comes with ‘accountability’ rider
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Legislation that triples US aid to Pakistan authorises military assistance to help the country in its fight against Al-Qaida and other terrorists, but it also includes new and painstakingly negotiated accountability measures to ensure that this aid is not misused. India had expressed concern that Pakistan would divert US military aid toward bolstering its defences against a perceived threat from India.

The so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan got something to applaud when the US Senate on Thursday passed the compromise legislation in a voice vote. A statement from the sponsor of an identical bill in the House of Representatives said the legislation required that military assistance be focused “principally on helping Pakistan with its critical counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts”. The bill addresses India's concerns, which congressional sources and South Asia analysts in Washington say are valid.

According to congressman Howard Berman's office, the legislation establishes “accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that the government of Pakistan has demonstrated a sustained effort to combating terrorist groups and has made progress towards that end, as committed to by the government of Pakistan”.

“US taxpayers — and the Pakistani people — deserve assurance that these funds provided to Pakistan to shore up its counterinsurgency and to fight terrorism are being used to serve US and Pakistani national interests,” Berman said. “Congress has agreed that such measures should be part and parcel of the law authorising these funds, and I am pleased that our two governments and our two peoples are working jointly in such efforts.”

Congressional aides laboured hard to reach a compromise between the earlier Senate and House versions of the bill. The sticking points at the time had been language governing oversight of funds to Pakistan's military. The House bill had linked the release of these funds to the president’s certification that the Pakistani government “demonstrated a sustained commitment to and made progress towards combating terrorist groups.”

The new version states that the president has to certify that Pakistan is “making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups ... including taking into account the extent to which the government of Pakistan has made progress on matters” related to counterterrorism. The new version also doesn’t specify a dollar amount for military aid, only saying “such sums as are necessary.”

Senator John Kerry, who along with Senator Richard Lugar co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, said: “The clear, tough-minded accountability standards and metrics contained in the original bill are carried through in this version.”



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