WASHINGTON, July 28: The White House said on Saturday that President George W. Bush would sign into law a counter-terrorism bill that also proposes new conditionalities on US assistance to Pakistan.

The US House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday night by 317 to 40 votes. The Senate had endorsed it on Thursday night by 85 to 8 votes.

“The … provisions … require Pakistan to make demonstrated, significant and sustained progress towards eliminating terrorist safe havens from Pakistan,” said Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

The section on Pakistan also ties US assistance to democratic reforms, extension of the rule of law, and the conduct of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2007.

Another provision notes that Pakistan maintains a network for the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies, adding that the maintenance of such a network would be inconsistent with Pakistan being considered an ally of the United States.

“It is the sense of Congress that the national security interest of the United States will best be served if the United States works with the government of Pakistan to stop nuclear proliferation,” the bill adds.

The overwhelming endorsement by both chambers of the US Congress indicates the strong bilateral support the bill enjoys.

The bill’s original intention — strengthening American security to prevent future terrorist attacks — makes it impossible for any political group in the United States to oppose it.

US officials, while talking privately to reporters, acknowledge that the Bush administration is not comfortable with the proposed restrictions on American assistance to Pakistan but finds it very difficult to purge it from a bill that is tied to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Once signed into law by President Bush, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 has the potential to become another Pressler Amendment for Pakistan. The 1985 act, which placed similar restrictions on Pakistan, led to the suspension of US military and economic assistance to the country in October 1990 when the then American president refused to issue the mandatory waiver needed to continue the aid.

The proposed restrictions under the 9/11 act require similar certification.

The section on Pakistan, as passed by the House, includes findings that:

(1) 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.

(2) 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, such as:

(A) Curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology;

(B) Combating poverty and corruption;

(C) Building effective government institutions, especially secular public schools;

(D) Promoting democracy and the rule of law, particularly at the national level;

(E) Addressing the continued presence of Taliban and other violent extremist forces throughout the country;

(F) Maintaining the authority of the government of Pakistan in all parts of its national territory;

(G) Securing the borders of Pakistan to prevent the movement of militants and terrorists into other countries and territories; and

(H) Effectively dealing with Islamic extremism.

The bill is also a statement of policy, saying that the following shall be the policies of the United States towards Pakistan:

(1) To work with the government of Pakistan to combat international terrorism, especially in the frontier provinces of Pakistan, and to end the use of Pakistan as a safe haven for forces associated with the Taliban.

(2) To establish a long-term strategic partnership with the government of Pakistan to address the issues described in the bill.

(3) To dramatically increase funding for programmes of the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State that assist the government of Pakistan in addressing such issues, if the government of Pakistan demonstrates a commitment to building a moderate, democratic state, including significant steps towards free and fair parliamentary elections in 2007.

(4) 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.

Strategy Relating to Pakistan:

(1) Requirement for report on strategy — not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report, in classified form if necessary, that describes the long-term strategy of the United States to engage with the government of Pakistan to address the issues described in the bill and carry out the policies suggested by Congress in order to accomplish the goal of building a moderate, democratic Pakistan.

Limitation on United States Security Assistance to Pakistan:

For fiscal years 2008 and 2009, US military assistance to Pakistan may not be approved for until 15 days after the date on which President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the government of Pakistan is making all possible efforts to prevent the Taliban from operating in areas under its sovereign control, including in the cities of Quetta and Chaman and in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

(2) The President may waive the limitation on assistance for a fiscal year if the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that it is important to the national security interest of the United States to do so.

(3) The limitation on assistance to Pakistan shall cease to be effective beginning on the date on which the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Taliban, or any related successor organisation, has ceased to exist as an organisation capable of conducting military, insurgent, or terrorist activities in Afghanistan from Pakistan.

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