Central & South Asia
Pakistan debates US aid bill
Politicians question whether package is worth the strict conditions attached to it.
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2009 01:33 GMT

The US aid is conditional on Islamabad taking a firm stance against the Taliban and al-Qaeda [EPA]

Pakistan's parliament has begun a debate on a US aid bill after widespread criticism in the country that some conditions attached to it are a humiliating violation of sovereignty.

The US congress approved the bill tripling aid for Pakistan to $1.5bn a year for the next five years and sent it to Barack Obama, the president, for signing into law last week.

The legislation is part of an attempt to build a new relationship with Pakistan that focuses not solely on military ties, but also on Pakistan's social and economic development.

But in an effort to address Washington's concerns that Pakistan's military may support armed groups, the bill stipulates that US military aid will cease if Pakistan does not help fight "terrorists", including Taliban and al-Qaeda members taking sanctuary on the Afghan border.

'Strings attached'

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said: "There are conditionalities; there are strings attached. Those strings and conditionalities seem to be very heavy handed as far as Pakistan is concerned.

"Pakistan has still been waiting for almost $1.6bn due from the Coalition Support Fund for operations in the so called war on terror"

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad

"There is talk about the fact that Pakistan has to dismantle Muridke [headquarters of the Jamaat-ul-Dawah]. That sort of language is seen to be influenced from the Indian lobby and Washington and, therefore, there are grave reservations.

"Also, Pakistan has still been waiting for almost $1.6bn due from the Coalition Support Fund for operations in the so called war on terror."

The bill seeks Pakistani co-operation to dismantle nuclear-supplier networks by offering "relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks", a reference to nuclear scientist AQ Khan who allegedly ran a black market in atomic technology.

Pakistan has declined to let foreign investigators question Khan, saying it has passed on all information gleaned from him.

The bill, co-authored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar, both senators, also provides for an assessment of how effective civilian government's control over the powerful military has been.

'Zardari incompetence'

Opposition politicians have criticised the government of Asif Ali Zardari, the president, for allowing the humiliation of the country.

"The incompetence of the Zardari regime has brought humiliation for Pakistan," Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the main opposition party PML-N, said.

"Our party appreciates the spirit behind the initiative. However, it feels that any conditionality with such assistance must respect Pakistan's sovereignty and self-respect."

Plans by the US to expand its embassy in Pakistan have also raised suspicion, as has speculation about the embassy's use of private security contractors.

But Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, said in Washington that "there is no question of Pakistan's sovereignty being compromised" by the measure.

Parliament is not expected to reject the bill, but was likely to pass a resolution highlighting its concerns.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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