WASHINGTON, July 19: The US House of Representatives has cut $650 million from its military aid to Pakistan amid warnings that the move will send a wrong message to the Pakistani people.
And senior Republican lawmakers claimed that they were trying to tamp down demands for still deeper reductions because of conservative anger at Pakistan’s policies.
“The issue is not so much about the cuts, or the money, it’s the message this sends to Pakistan,” said Ambassador Sherry Rehman while commenting on the Wednesday night vote in the House.
“We are talking to a number of Congressmen, and are constantly engaged with key players on Capitol Hill.”
During a debate on the Defence appropriations bill, Congressman Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, came to the floor demanding a $1.3 billion cut on US aid to Pakistan.
The Pakistanis “have proven to be deceptive and deceitful and a danger to the United States” and giving them “more money is not going to solve the problem,” he said.
Congressman Norman Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the House appropriations Committee, agreed and the House approved a $650 million cut, which reduces the US funding to the Pakistani military by half.
Ambassador Rehman, however, pointed out that “this bill has still not become policy”.
The bill now goes to the Senate and Pakistani diplomats are hoping that it may be stopped during conference, a process for merging the House and Senate version of a legislative measure.
But Congressional staffers warn that Pakistan remains unpopular on Capitol Hill and that Dr Shakil Afridi’s trial could further imperil US aid to the country.
Republican Senator Rand Paul is seeking a direct vote in the Senate to end all aid to Pakistan. “If Dr Afridi is still in jail next week, I will force this vote,” he declared.