Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington for [ The Tribune ]
A US Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a Bill to triple non-military aid to Pakistan.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-0 to increase aid to $7.5 billion over five years. The Bill now proceeds to the Senate for a vote. Once it is cleared by the Senate, it must be reconciled with a House version that imposes stricter conditions to verify that Pakistan is cooperating in the fight against terrorism. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed its version of the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act (PEACE) last week.
The Senate Bill is named for its cosponsors – Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed satisfaction with the unanimous vote in the panel. “This is a critical moment for Pakistan,” he said. “This was a strong, bipartisan effort that matches the urgency of the situation in Pakistan with real commitment by the United States.”
“A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is vital for Pakistan’s 170 million citizens and it’s vital to America’s national security,” Kerry said. The senator contended the Bill would help empower Pakistanis “fighting to turn their country toward a path of moderation and stability”. He added: “It offers us a chance to begin a new chapter in our relations based upon accountability and a broad-based, durable commitment to Pakistan and its people.”
Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate panel, said the legislation marked an important step toward “sustained economic and political cooperation with Pakistan, while establishing mechanisms to help ensure that funds were spent efficiently.”
“The Bill subjects our security assistance to a certification that the Pakistani government is using the money for its intended purpose, namely, to combat the Taliban and the al-Qaida,” he said.