Expressing concern over Pakistan’s commitment to America’s objectives in the Muslim- majority nation and neighbouring Afghanistan, a Congressional committee has called for meeting ‘benchmarks’ in combating terrorism. Appropriations committees in the Senate as well as in the House have proposed tougher conditions for US aid – both military and economic – to Pakistan and called for meeting benchmarks for progress in the fight against terrorism. Passing the annual appropriations bill for the State Department for the year 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee said it “remains concerned with the commitment by Pakistan to US strategic objectives in the region, including combating terrorism”.
The appropriations bill passed by the two committees last week landed in the Senate and the House of Representatives this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended USD 372 million in assistance for Pakistan. Prior fiscal year carryover funds for assistance for Pakistan are projected to total more than USD 1 billion. This in reality, the projected funding for Pakistan in the fiscal year 2018 could be more than USD 1.4 billion, according to Senate Appropriations Committee report. While there are tough conditions for the US aid to Pakistan, these can be waived by the Secretary of State under the national interest up to 75 per cent of the allocated fund on Pakistan’s cooperation on counter terrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network and other extremists. Last year it was 95 per cent of the allocated funds, according to a report of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The appropriations bill continues to withhold USD 33 million of funds made available for assistance to Pakistan until the Secretary of State reports to the Committee that Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges related to the assistance provided to the United States in locating Osama bin Laden. For all aid to Pakistan, as usual the Secretary of State is required to give certification to the Congress that Islamabad is cooperating with the United States in counter terrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations.
This also includes 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 Secretary of State also needs to give certification that the Government of Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against United States 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 also includes that Pakistan is not financing or otherwise supporting schools supported by, affiliated with, or run by the Taliban or any designated foreign terrorist organisation; and is preventing the proliferation of nuclear related material and expertise. “The Secretary of State should suspend assistance” if Pakistan fails to meet these benchmarks.