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Congress rigidifies stand on U.S. aid to Pakistan

Washington: A U.S. Congressional panel started on Thursday hearing a proposal to make civil and military aid to Pakistan conditional to its support to the fight against the Afghan Taliban.

The proposal is a part of the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations draft bill which was distributed among the members of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, reports the Dawn.

The draft continues current requirements regarding assistance for Pakistan, but prevents the Secretary of State from giving a full national-interest waiver. The secretary can now only issue a waiver for 85 percent of the funds appropriated under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

The bill underlines the U.S. concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorism in the Pak-Afghan region, saying, “The committee remains concerned with the commitment by Pakistan to U.S. strategic objectives in the region, including combating terrorism”.

Some U.S. lawmakers have also pointed out to ‘duplicity’ of Pakistan which on one hand proclaims to be a friend of Washington and gets billions in aid, but on the other, backs terrorists.

The bill also suggests withholding $33,000,000 of funds until the Secretary of State reports to the Committee that Dr. Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges related to the assistance he provided to the United States in locating Osama bin Laden.

The Secretary of State is also asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations, including taking effective steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.

The bill also says that the funds made available under the ‘Foreign Military Financing Programme’ can only be used to support counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities in Pakistan. It prevents Pakistan from using this fund to buy F-16 fighter jets, as it did in the past. (ANI)