WASHINGTON, Jan 24: A new legislation, already endorsed by the House of Representatives, calls for stopping US military assistance to Pakistan if Islamabad fails to halt the resurgence of Taliban inside its territory.
The first piece of legislation by the new Congress since it was sworn in earlier this month also urges the Bush administration to help resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, at a briefing at the Pakistani embassy, Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani acknowledged that anti-Pakistan feelings were strong in the United States because of “misperceptions” about the country’s role in the war against terrorism.
“We are already standing on our head, what else we could do,” he asked. “They should not blame us for their failures.”
The proposed legislation urges the US president to certify that Islamabad is making all efforts to “prevent Taliban from operating in areas under its sovereign control, including in the cities of Quetta and Chaman” before releasing any funds or approving licenses for enhancing its military capability.
The new provisions form part of the Implementation of 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act, 2007, aimed at revamping the US national security and foreign policy apparatus to address challenges post-9/11.
Three countries have been singled out in the proposed legislation: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
A congressional aide, who did not want to be identified, told Dawn that the legislation “shows the general mood in both the chambers, which is not very favourable to Pakistan,” said the aide who did not want to be identified.
The section on Pakistan lays down a set of policy objectives that range from ensuring free and fair parliamentary elections this year to securing borders to “prevent movement of militants and terrorists into other countries.”
The Act, cleared by the House of Representatives, is now being discussed in the Senate.
The legislation acknowledges that “since September 11, 2001, the government of Pakistan has been an important partner in helping the United States remove the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and combating international terrorism in the frontier provinces of Pakistan”.But “there remain a number of critical issues that threaten to disrupt the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, undermine international security, and destabilise Pakistan”.
Recognising Pakistan’s importance in the war against terror, it grants the US president the power to forge a “strategic partnership” but places limitations on the president’s authority to provide credit on favourable terms for purchase of military equipment and spares.It emphasises that for fiscal years 2008 and 2009, US military assistance to Pakistan may not be provided” unless the president “determines and certifies” that the Pakistan government is taking all actions against Taliban.
These include credit for military sales and purchases in Foreign Assistance Act and Section 23 of Arms Export Control Act along with licenses for any item controlled under this Act.
The US president may waive the limitation on assistance for a fiscal year if he determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that it is important to the national security interest of the United States to do so.
The areas where Pakistan needs to take action against the resurgent Taliban militia have been identified as Quetta, Chaman, the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Once the Act is passed, the president will be required to submit within 90 days to the relevant Congressional committees a report on the US strategy towards Pakistan that should spell out the “long-term” plan which the US has in mind to “accomplish the goal of building a moderate Pakistan.”
The bill identifies the “critical issues” that need immediate action as:
• Curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology.
• Combating poverty and corruption.
• Building effective government institutions.
• Promoting democracy and the rule of law, particularly at the national level.
• Addressing continued presence of Taliban and other violent extremists throughout the country.
• Maintaining the authority of the Government of Pakistan in all parts of its national territory.
• Securing borders of Pakistan to prevent movement of militants and terrorists into other countries and territories.
• Effectively dealing with Islamic terrorism.
The Act also lays out policy guidelines for the US government, which is not binding on the administration of the day but does give a sense of Congress.
• To work with Pakistan to combat international terrorism, especially in the frontier provinces, and to end the use of Pakistan as a safe haven for forces associated with the Taliban.
• To establish a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan to address these issues.
• To dramatically increase funding for programmes of the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State that assist Pakistan in addressing such issues, if Islamabad demonstrates a commitment to building a moderate, democratic state, including significant steps towards free and fair parliamentary elections in 2007.
• To work with the international community to secure additional financial and political support to effectively implement the policies set forth in this subsection and help to resolve the dispute between the government of Pakistan and the government of India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.