- File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States has agreed to reimburse $1.18 billion or almost 75 per cent of the claims Pakistan has submitted for the expenses incurred in the fight against militants along the Afghan border, diplomatic sources told Dawn.

The money comes from the Coalition Support Fund, which is used for reimbursing Pakistan and other US allies helping it in the war against terror.

The approval shows that despite increased tensions, the US financial assistance to Pakistan has continued although it is becoming increasingly difficult to get congressional support for helping Pakistan.

Last week, Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman and her team succeeded in persuading Congressman David Dreier, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, to drop an amendment that would have made it difficult to continue to provide financial assistance to Pakistan.

Moved by Congressman Ted Poe, the amendment sought a blanket ban on providing financial assistance to Pakistan from the funds earmarked for the next fiscal year.

But this success brings only a temporary relief for Ambassador Rehman and her team as this week they will have to deal with yet another amendment. Congressman Ron Paul, who has moved the amendment, is leading the effort to strip Pakistan of all American aid funds until they release Dr Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA trace Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

“I think we need to negotiate from a position of strength,” Congressman Paul told Fox News. “I don’t think the administration is standing up to Pakistan — giving them a billion dollars and saying please let him go instead of saying ‘you don’t get a penny until you let him go’. That’s the way I’d deal with them.”

And the Pakistani team fears that such moves will intensify on Monday when US lawmakers and officials return to work and are asked to react to a Pakistani court’s decision to acquit four accomplices of the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.

“These are very difficult days for Pakistani diplomats and lobbyists in Washington,” observed one of the lobbyists who did not want to be identified. “To be Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington now is like being the Pakistani ambassador in Moscow in the 1980s when Pakistan was helping the Mujahideen fight the Russians.”

But on Sunday, Pakistani diplomats seemed happy with the approval of 75 per cent of the CSF claims. “They usually pay 75 per cent of the claims we put up, so $1.18 billion is the deal,” said a diplomat.

Also, the US and Pakistani teams engaged in resolving the Nato routes dispute have continued their talks as well. On Saturday, US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides spoke with Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, their second conversation in less than a week.

Mr Nides, although based in Washington, is leading the US effort for reopening the routes Pakistan closed in November last year when a US air raid killed 24 of its soldiers. Mr Shaikh is leading the Pakistani team.

Also, a senior Pentagon official, Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Leovy, is returning to Islamabad this week to lead the talks.