Congress rejects move to stop US funding for Pakistan

Published June 23, 2014
Mr Rohrabacher, who is also campaigning on the Hill for an independent Balochistan, alleged that Islamabad had undermined US efforts to combat terrorism. — File photo
Mr Rohrabacher, who is also campaigning on the Hill for an independent Balochistan, alleged that Islamabad had undermined US efforts to combat terrorism. — File photo

WASHINGTON: An amendment to stop US funding to Pakistan has been defeated in the House of Representatives, which accepted the Obama administration’s argument that doing so would hurt key US interests.

But at a separate session, a key congressional committee reduced US aid to Pakistan for 2015 by $65.8 million.

At the House, 320 of the 435 voting members rejected the amendment, proposed by Congressman Dana Rohra­bacher, to stop American funding to Pakistan. Mr Rohrabacher still managed to get the support of 92 members, although he did not have a co-sponsor.

Mr Rohrabacher, who is also campaigning on the Hill for an independent Balochistan, alleged that Islamabad had undermined US efforts to combat terrorism.

“The policy which has us funding Pakistan’s military is wrong … it is insane for us to continue borrowing large sums of money from China to give to Pakistan,” he said.

But at a separate session, a key congressional committee reduced US aid to Pakistan for 2015 by $65.8 million.

The US aid, which was “sometimes deceptively labelled as reimbursements”, could not buy Pakistan’s cooperation in hunting down terrorists, he added.

The congressman said that it was the Pakistani establishment that sheltered Osama bin Laden for years and continued to jail Dr Shakil Afridi, the man who helped the CIA locate Osama bin Laden.

“Why would Pakistan do that if they are really on our side?” he asked.

Mr Rohrabacher, who strongly backed Pakistan during the Afghan war, claimed that US funds were being used to persecute religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan.

“This is especially true for the Baloch and Sindhi, two large ethnic minority groups in Pakistan” who were denied their right to self-determination, he said. “Pakistan is not an ally … they are allied with terrorist elements and our ever more dangerous adversary, Communist China.”

His arguments, however, failed to convince the lawmakers most of whom rejected the proposed amendment.

On Friday evening, the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations endorsed the US State Department’s 2015 budget of $48.285 billion. And in doing so, it also approved a total of $959.7 million for Pakistan which is $65.8 million less than the Obama administration’s request of $1.03 billion.

The bill increased funding for polio prevention programmes to $59 million, including $7.5 million in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to support a multilateral campaign to eliminate the disease, which is $9 million above the president’s request.

The committee has also requested the Secretary of State to consult with the Committee on plans for winding down the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It supports the reincorporation of SRAP within the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee directed that programmes in Pakistan target unemployment, illiteracy, and disenfranchisement among the most impoverished individuals and communities.

Recognising Malala Yousafzai’s courageous advocacy for girls’ education, the bill provided $3 million in addition to increase the number of scholarships under the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program.

The committee recommended that no less than 50 per cent of the scholarships should be awarded to Pakistani women.

The committee also asked the State Department to ensure that the US assistance was not used in the Iran-Pak gas pipeline.

It also urged the Secretary of State to make the release of Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped by extremists in Lahore in 2011, a priority in the bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

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