WASHINGTON, Dec 15: US President George W. Bush is expected to sign a bill in the next few days, officially binding Washington to engage Pakistan into a long-term economic and political partnership.

The bill, called the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, was passed by the US Congress last week and with Mr Bush's signature, it will become a law. Section 4082 of the Act urges the US administration to ensure a promising, stable and secure future for Pakistan and help it resolve its disputes with neighbours, combat extremists, and become a participatory democracy.

Section 4083 gives Pakistan a glimpse of US commitment by waiving democracy-related and other sanctions for two years. Section 5108 opens the door to Pakistan receiving more US funding for education reform, with an emphasis, but not limited to, the Madrassas.

Section 1003 tries to allay Pakistan's apprehensions that it is merely "an ally of convenience" by extending US assistance at current levels beyond 2009. This means that Pakistan will continue to receive $701 million a year from the United States as economic and military assistance.

The act comes almost a month after the Bush administration sent to Congress a proposal for a $1.2 billion arms package for Pakistan and last week acknowledged to have discussed with President Musharraf the possible sale of some F-16 aircraft when he visited the White House.

Besides Pakistan, the 9/11 Act also suggests various proposals for improving America's image in the Islamic world and for helping its Muslim allies combat internal extremism.

Among the many sections and subsections of the Act are steps to improve the way the United States interacts with key countries in the war on terrorism: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has faced an upsurge in terrorist attacks blamed on Al Qaeda-linked groups and individuals. In passing intelligence reform legislation, Congress calls on President Bush to come up with a strategy for future relations with the kingdom.

This includes a new framework for cooperation in the war on terrorism with specific reference to financing of terrorists, and an examination of steps to reverse the trend toward extremism in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Also mandated is a framework for promoting greater tolerance and respect for cultural diversity in Saudi Arabia and the region. Congress hopes to have a similar impact in Pakistan, where it says the US should try to ensure a long-term policy of moderation, including reforms in the education system.

The United States, it says, should support with financial and other aid, efforts to fight extremism and halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction. One of the longest sections deals with Afghanistan and efforts to build democracy while fighting terrorists and opium cultivation.

Similar to Saudi Arabia, the legislation says President Bush should present in not later than six months, a five-year strategy addressing a range of goals from security and economic development to the rule of law in Afghanistan.

He has also been asked to continue working to ensure progress in Afghanistan is not undermined by warlords and narcotics trafficking, and to urge Nato and other countries to increase military contributions to an extended period of time.

Extensive language on narcotics reflects frustration in Congress that the US military has not been as engaged as many had hoped in eradicating poppy cultivation. Lawmakers required a report from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on progress within four months.

The legislation also addresses another of the recommendations of the Sept 11 Commission, namely improving US public diplomacy to help fight spread of terrorism and promote democracy.

It calls for more focused planning for, and an annual assessment of, the impact of such things as foreign broadcasts, on specific target audiences. Also, more emphasis on foreign language training for US diplomats, more money for direct youth and other exchanges with Muslim countries, and aid to American-sponsored elementary and secondary schools in the Muslim world.

The 9/11 Act also seeks to make improvements in the areas of human intelligence, in contrast to electronic and other methods, and non-proliferation.

Finally, among the many steps becoming law under the intelligence reform law will be those intended to send a strong message to governments that may still be supporting terrorists. Congress calls on President Bush to submit a report within 90 days with a strategy for addressing and, where possible, eliminating terrorist sanctuaries.



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