Washington, July 20: Giving a major shock to Pakistan, the United States Congressional panel on Wednesday voted to impose tougher conditions on Islamabad to receive US assistance. Notably, the move comes after the State Department of United States exposed Pakistan of backstabbing others and listed Islamabad among the nations providing "safe havens" to terrorists.
The US Congressional panel has voted to impose tougher conditions on Pakistan to receive US assistance and authorized the Secretary of State to suspend aid if Islamabad fails to take effective actions against those terrorist groups who are being safeguarded.
However, the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which seeks certification from Rex Tillerson for disbursement of US aid to Pakistan, making it conditional for Islamabad to take action against terrorist groups immediately. The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill which was passed by US Congressional panel says that none of the funds appropriated by this Act under the ‘Economic Support Fund’, the ‘International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement’, and the ‘Foreign Military Financing Programme’ for Pakistan may be made available unless the secretary of state i.e Rex Tillerson certifies to the committees that Islamabad is taking stringent action against terrorist groups.
Under the bill, the secretary of state is also asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in counter- terrorism efforts against the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, and others, including taking effective steps to prevent such terrorist groups from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.
The secretary of state is also required to certify that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against the US or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan.
The certification needs to include that Pakistan is “not financing or supporting schools” linked to the Taliban or any designated terrorist group and that Islamabad is preventing the proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise. The bill says the secretary of state should “suspend assistance” to Pakistan if it fails to make measurable progress in meeting its benchmarks.
While the secretary of state can waive these conditions in the name of national interest, the draft bill says that funds appropriated by this Act under the ‘Foreign Military Financing Programme’ for Pakistan may be made available only to support counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities in that country. Interestingly, this means Pakistan would be able to get F-16 fighter jets with American aid.
The Congressional also panel noted the continued importance of US assistance to secure and stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Understanding that the staffing and programming requirements in these countries will remain under continuous review and, for that reason, the committee said it has not designated specific funding recommendations. The panel, in the end, urged ‘Voice of America’ to consider expanding Sindh language broadcasting.
Importantly, in its annual 'Country Report on Terrorism' the United States listed Pakistan among the nations providing "safe havens" to terrorists saying terror groups like the LeT and JEM continued to operate, train, organize and fundraise inside the country.