WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives joined the Senate on Tuesday in seeking to end US economic aid to Pakistan while the Trump administration has already suspended military aid.

A bill introduced in the House said that non-defence aid to Pakistan should also end and the money set aside for this purpose should be invested in infrastructure projects in the United States.

The movers say they are seeking the ban because Pakistan “provides military aid and intelligence” to terrorists, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. Pakistani officials say that the US administration blames their country to hide their failure in Afghanistan where they have failed to subdue an ever-increasing insurgency.

The legislation, introduced by Congressmen Mark Sanford from South Carolina and Thomas Massie from Kentucky, seeks to prohibit the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from sending American taxpayer money to Pakistan.

Instead, these funds will be redirected to the Highway Trust Fund, the account that pays for road infrastructure in the US.

This common-sense bill puts America first by reallocating tax dollars to roads and bridges at home instead of funnelling money overseas, Congressman Massie said.

“When the American people support other nations, our generosity shouldn’t be used to reward terrorists with US taxpayer dollars,” Congressman Sanford added.

“Couple this with the fact that the Highway Trust Fund will be $111 billion short by 2026, and it simply makes financial sense to repurpose these funds for our infrastructure,” he said.

The move to stop US economic assistance to Pakistan initiated in the Senate where Senator Rand Paul introduced a companion legislation early last month.

“We fail to protect the country and steward taxpayers’ hard-earned money when we support countries that chant ‘death to America and burn our flag’,” he argued.

“Let’s bring that money home and use it to help rebuild our infrastructure instead of giving it to a nation that persecutes Christians and imprisons people such as the doctor that helped us get Osama bin Laden,” Senator Paul said.

The current debate in Congress on the rationale for continuing US assistance to Pakistan followed a New Year Day tweet from President Donald Trump, who accused the country of receiving more than $33 billion in 15 years but giving “nothing but lies and deceit” in return.

Four days after the tweet, he suspended US security aid to Pakistan, hoping that it would force Islamabad to support his strategy for defeating the Taliban.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2018

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