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US Congress approves $701m for Pakistan

July 18, 2004

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WASHINGTON, July 17: The US Congress has approved the first instalment of $701 million for Pakistan from the $3 billion package announced last year.

The instalment includes $300 million for defence and $300 million from the economic support fund. A separate amount of $101 million is for developmental projects and law and order such as education, health and anti-narcotics activities.

The entire amount will be disbursed between Oct 2004 and Oct 2005.

President George W. Bush had promised to "work with the US Congress on a $3 billion assistance package" for Pakistan when President Gen Pervez Musharraf visited the Camp David presidential resort in June last year.

By then the Bush administration had already cancelled $1 billion of debt Pakistan owed to the United States and was also providing $31 million for initiatives aimed at broadening political participation and expanding educational opportunities, specially for women and girls.

On Friday, the United States also waived a $495.3 million debt Islamabad owed to Washington as part of its debt relief programme for Pakistan.

During the debate on the first instalment, Congress set aside an amendment a Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul, had proposed on Thursday.

He had proposed deleting $300 million meant for defence purchase from the first instalment. Mr Paul represents a lobby in the US Congress opposed to large foreign assistance, particularly for defence.

The newly found Pakistan caucus played a key role in ensuring that the amendment, which would have reduced the assistance by half, is not adopted.

It also succeeded in getting bipartisan support for the bill seeking approval for the funds for Pakistan.

Both Congresswoman Sheila Jackson, a Democrat from Houston, and Congressman Joseph Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania, opposed the Paul amendment, saying that as a key member of the US-led coalition against terrorism Pakistan deserved long-term US support.

Congressman Jim Colby, another Republican who chairs the House of Representatives' committee that approves the funds for aid, also opposed the amendment saying that the $300 million Mr Paul was trying to deduct was needed to enhance Pakistan's capability to fight terrorism.

Explaining his position, Mr Paul said he did not "mean to oppose Pakistan or support India" when he proposed the amendment and agreed to withdraw the proposal that $701 million aid package for Pakistan be reduced.