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US Defence Act tightens restrictions on aid to Pakistan

July 16, 2017

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives has adopted three legislative amendments seeking tougher conditions for reimbursement of defence funding to Pakistan.

The amendments, moved by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe and adopted late on Friday, require Pakistan to make satisfactory progress in the fight against terrorism if it wants to continue receiving the US assistance. Both congressmen are known on Capitol Hill for their opposition to Pakistan and have also sponsored a resolution that seeks to declare the country a state sponsor of terrorism.

Through a separate resolution, they are seeking to remove Pakistan from the list of major non-Nato allies, a designation that confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable to non-Nato countries. Pakistan became a major non-Nato ally in 2004.

In the past, measures moved by the two Republican lawmakers were often opposed by the US administration and defeated in the House.

One amendment requires Pentagon to assess Pakistan’s alleged support for known terrorists

But the adoption of the three amendments they made to the National Defence Authorisation Act 2018 indicates the changing mood in Washington where Pakistan is now seen as a major hurdle in US efforts to defeat the Afghan Taliban.

One of the amendments, moved by Mr Rohrabacher, adds a stipulation “requiring that, prior to the disbursement of certain funds, the secretary of defence certify to the Congress that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the United States to persecute minority groups seeking political or religious freedom”.

It was adopted by a voice vote.

Another amendment, moved by Mr Poe, adds an additional certification criteria required for waiving Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan. The addition requires the secretary of defence to “certify Pakistan is not providing military, financial or logistical support to specially designated global terrorists operating in Afghanistan or Pakistan”.

Shakil Afridi a ‘hero’

The third amendment, by Mr Rohrabacher, “expresses a sense of Congress that Dr Shakil Afridi is an international hero and that the government of Pakistan should release him immediately from prison”.

Amendments moved by other lawmakers, although related to Afghanistan, may also impact Pakistan. One of them amends the requirements for the Afghanistan strategy mandated in the bill to include a description of military and diplomatic efforts to disrupt foreign support for the Taliban and other extremist groups.

Another amendment directs the US president to provide to Congress a strategy and a budgetary analysis needed to defeat Al Qaeda, the Taliban and militant Islamic State group, no later than 30 days after final passage.

Later, Congressman Poe released a statement, accusing Pakistan of being a “Benedict Arnold Ally” that “supports multiple terrorist organisations, including groups that target Americans working to stabilise Afghanistan”.

Benedict Arnold was a general during the American revolutionary war, who originally fought for the American continental army, but defected to the British army.

Mr Poe said his amendment required the Pentagon to assess Pakistan’s alleged support for known terrorists before handing over aid to Islamabad.

“Today, Congress took a step forward to end Pakistan’s betrayal of the US with the addition of a certification requirement,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017