Senate nod to triple Pak aid

The US Senate has approved tripling American aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for each of the next five years, largely ignoring India’s concerns about Pakistani soil being used for terror attacks in India.

The aid measure passed by a simple voice vote in the Senate on Wednesday, however, requires a presidential certification that Pakistan is “making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban from using the territory of Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks within Afghanistan.”

It will now have to be reconciled with a version approved by the House of Representatives on June 11. The House bill had initially made aid to Pakistan conditional to Pakistani soil not being used to launch any terrorist attack in India, but references to India were later deleted after a hue and cry from Islamabad and reservations expressed by the Obama administration. The Senate bill also asks for several other presidential certifications in regard to aid to Pakistan. It requires benchmarks for measuring the effectiveness of US assistance, including a systematic, qualitative basis for assessing whether desired outcomes are achieved.

It also requires the Secretary of State, after consulting with the Secretary of Defence and the Director of National Intelligence, to submit to Congress an annual report on the progress of the Pakistani security forces.

The $1.5 billion in annual funding includes money for Pakistani schools, judicial system, parliament and law enforcement agencies. The bill also includes $400 million in annual military aid for 2010-2013. “The legislation marks an important step toward economic and political cooperation with Pakistan,” said Senator Richard Lugar, Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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