WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that eases his budget conflicts with Congress but also puts conditions on the continuation of US aid to Pakistan.
“Goodness gracious, that is a big piece of business. That is a big bill,” Mr Obama said as he signed the bill on Friday afternoon. “I’m always interested in, like, where do they have the boxes for the really big ones.”
Amendments attached to the bill require a certification from the US secretaries of state and defence that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in counter-terrorism efforts against domestic and foreign terrorist organisations.
Congress also has withheld $3 million from the assistance until Pakistan releases Dr Shakil Afridi from prison and clears him of all charges relating to the help he extended to the US in locating Osama bin Laden.
The Secretary of State is authorised to suspend assistance if Pakistan fails to make measurable progress in meeting such goals or benchmarks, the bill says.
The Congress also seeks from the Obama administration a spending plan, including achievable and sustainable goals, benchmarks for measuring progress and expected results regarding combating poverty and furthering development in Pakistan, countering extremism and establishing conditions conducive to the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance.