Obama signs Pakistan aid bill

US president signs off $7.5bn package for Islamabad despite some concerns over terms.

    The bill makes the provision of aid conditional on the army staying out of politics [GALLO/GETTY]

    Conditions criticised

    "Some of the criticism from within Pakistan has been about the approach of the Bush administration [and whether it could] do more on the economic side, and build up the capacity of the Pakistani people ... This is exactly what the Obama administration has done with this [new] programme"

    Nicolas Burns,
    Harvard University Kennedy School of Government

    The US aid package to Pakistan is designed to fund projects in Pakistan that include schools and roads, agricultural development, energy generation, water resource management and the judicial system.

    However, the US congress still has to allot the funds set out in the bill, and the law must be renewed each year, subject to the White House declaring that "reasonable progress" is being made to meet the objectives of the aid.

    Some members of Pakistan's military and parliament had said that some rules in the bill, such as making the release of some funding conditional on fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, represented a breach of Pakistani sovereignty.

    But Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said on Wednesday that he was confident that Washington was not seeking to control Pakistan’s domestic politics.

    John Kerry, a Democratic senator and an author of the bill, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying the legislation was not aimed at limiting Pakistan's sovereignty.

    Obama 'supportive'

    Nicholas Burns, a professor of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, said that the aid package was a "strong signal of support by the US to the people of Pakistan".

    "It seems to me that the controversy over the bill within Pakistan is that some people are objecting to reporting requirements," he said.

    "Any administration in a democratic country, like the US, when it spends money has to be able report back to congress on how the money was spent and who received it.

    "In the past few years, some of the criticism from within Pakistan has been about the approach of the Bush administration [and whether it could] do more on the economic side, and build up the capacity of the Pakistani people.

    "This is exactly what the Obama administration has done with this [new] programme."

    The US, which is the biggest provider of aid to Pakistan, is seeking Pakistani government and military assistance to hunt down al-Qaeda leaders.

    Many of those suspected fighters are thought to be based in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, where US and Nato forces are fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban loyalists.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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