WASHINGTON, Feb 6: Within weeks, a new bill will be introduced in the US Congress which will seek to more than triple US economic aid to Pakistan, says Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

In an interview to Dawn and another news outlet, Mr Kerry also assured Pakistan that no new restrictions would be imposed on US military assistance to that country. However, the existing restrictions will remain.

The committee Senator Kerry chairs will play a crucial role in passing the bill, which was introduced in the previous Congress but now has to be reintroduced. The measure already enjoys bipartisan support, the senator said.

“I hope within next weeks we will have bill in a sufficient place to be able to introduce it again,” said Mr Kerry.

“We are just trying to right now make sure that we touch base with the Defence Department, the State Department and various people so that we are all on the same page and there is a complete unanimous support.”

The move negates efforts of the Indian lobbies on Capitol Hill who recently formed a task force to invoke economic sanctions on Pakistan. It also refutes media speculation that the bill moved in the previous Congress had died.

The new measure, Senator Kerry said, would “at least triple non-military aid to Pakistan on annual basis” and added: “We are looking at the question of whether we may put additional money.’’

The “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” would authorise $1.5 billion annually for 10 years. Mr Kerry said the proposed measure enjoyed bipartisan support on the Hill as the lawmakers believed “that it is important to have a relationship” with the people of Pakistan.

“We look forward to encouraging the growth of democracy, the stability of the institutions, the effort to defeat the violent extremists.”

Senator Kerry said that instead of bringing new restrictions against Pakistan, “the effort here is to be cooperative to create a stronger relationship.”

He said the United States was “very supportive” of President Zardari’s efforts to try to provide governance and strong civil institutions. But he said it did not mean that the previous Pakistani government was insincere to the fight against militancy. — Anwar Iqbal

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