WASHINGTON, May 5: No US assistance can be provided to Pakistan unless the Obama administration certifies to Congress that Pakistan did not have any information about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, says a bill introduced in the House of Representatives.The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs but a growing number of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are urging their colleagues not to take decisions that may hurt US interests.
“Congress has already appropriated $3 billion in aid to Pakistan for this year,” said Congressman Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, while introducing the bill. “Unless Pakistan can prove that they were not providing sanctuary for America's number one enemy, they should not receive any American aid.”
Co-sponsors — Congressmen Vern Buchanan, John Culberson and Allen West, all Republicans — also want to “punish” Pakistan but many see it as a hasty move.
“It is not the time to back away from Pakistan… but rather a time to strengthen ties,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “It's premature to talk of cutting aid, we both benefit from having a strong bilateral relationship.”
At a hearing on Pakistan in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thursday, Senator John Kerry urged lawmakers to think what impact their move to stop aid would have.
“Will the forces of violent extremism grow more dominant, eventually overpowering the moderate majority?” he asked. “Or will Pakistanis recommit to… building a stable, moderate democracy?”
John McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned: “There is a lot at stake there… we need to do what we can to help that country.”
This act shall take effect on the date of its enactment and shall apply to amounts allocated for assistance to Pakistan that are unexpended on or after such date.
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned the lawmakers against acting in haste.
“You cannot trust them and you cannot abandon them,” he said.
Co-sponsor Allen West is not convinced. “Unless we get a clear explanation of what Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, all foreign aid from American taxpayers to this nation needs to cease.”
Some Democrats also want to suspend aid now. “Before we send another dime, we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism,” said Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg. Congressman Dan Burton, co-chairman of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, urged such lawmakers to “take a breath, take a look at US interests in the long term (and) take a look at the big picture”, he said.
House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon said: “I think people who have been married 30 years still have some problems, but they don't get divorced.”
Congressman Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, argued that “just like we needed Turkey to go into Iraq, Pakistan remains the primary supply route for US forces in Afghanistan”.
Senator Claire McCaskill, another Democrat, said: “We have to be really careful here. We have to go through Pakistan to supply our troops. They have nuclear capability. They are in a very dangerous part of the world.”
Two top Republican lawmakers, Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl also warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction.