June 04, 2012

US-Pak ties may dip further if American Congress approves pending laws

, TNN | Jun 2, 2012, 07.49PM IST

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan may be cautiously optimistic about their bilateral relationship, but Pakistan's ties with the US is set to go further south, if pending legislation in the US Congress goes through. The quality of the legislation is a reflection of level of anger in the US regarding Pakistan's ties with terrorism. 

In its new report, "Pakistan: US Foreign Aid Conditions, Restrictions, and Reporting Requirements", the US' Congressional Research Service (CRS) observes, "Some Members of the 112th Congress have concerns about providing billions of dollars of annual aid to a country that appears unwilling or unable to act as a reliable US partner. Numerous legislative proposals before the 112th Congress go beyond current law." 

The report says that the closing of the lines of communication by Pakistan was not as big a catastrophe as had been prophesied. "In this respect, by keeping the routes closed, Islamabad has "played its trump card" in relations with Washington and not realized the hoped-for gains. Pakistan now risks finding itself increasingly isolated diplomatically, and working positively with the United States and NATO may be the only way to change this course." 

Some of the pending legislation on Pakistan goes like this: H.R. 5857, which was introduced on May 25, 2012, and approved by the House Appropriations Committee on the same day. This seeks to cut all funding to Pakistan unless the secretary of state certifies that Pakistan is not supporting terrorists, and taking action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network, Quetta Shura Taliban, Jaish-e-Mohammed and al-Qaida, and dismantling IED networks. 

A similar legislation, S. 3241, was introduced on May 24, 2012, in the Senate. The full Senate appropriations committee approved it the same day. This aims to provide $50 million for Pakistan's Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, which is only about 6% of the amount requested by the administration, but "only if the Secretary of State certifies that Pakistan has reopened the GLOCs (ground lines of communication) to Afghanistan and that the funds can be used efficiently and effectively". This legislation also limits total State Department aid to Pakistan at $800 million, which is only about 36% of administration request; shaves off $33 million from military aid to Pakistan as retaliation for conviction of Dr Shakil Afridi, who allegedly helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. 

The two Bills are strikingly similar since they take a much more hardened position against Pakistan than say, legislation introduced in the Congress last year. They incorporate stricter provisions to hold Pakistan's feet to the fire regarding its actions against terrorism and terror groups. 

A third legislation, H.R. 4310, passed by the House of Representatives on May 18, 2012, prevents the secretary of defense from "preferential procurement of goods and services from Pakistan" until Islamabad reopens lines of communication to Afghanistan; CSF payments to Pakistan would be no more than $650 million. Like the other Bills, it makes funding to Pakistan conditional on Pakistan acting against terrorists and terror groups. 

It's not yet clear how many of these pending Bills will be signed by the US President into law, especially since similar Bills have languished. But they make it more difficult for Pakistan to bring the US administration around with their current arguments of being a victim of terrorism and pleading deniability on terror groups. 

In a related report on US-Pakistan relations, the CRS observes, "Islamist extremism and militancy in Pakistan is a central US foreign policy concern. Its arguably growing influence hinders progress toward key US goals, including the defeat of al-Qaida and other anti-US terrorist groups, Afghan stabilization, and resolution of the historic Pakistan-India rivalry that threatens the entire region's stability and that has a nuclear dimension. Long-standing worries that American citizens have been recruited and employed in Islamist terrorism by Pakistan-based elements have become more acute. Several most-wanted enemies of the United States are widely believed to reside in Pakistan, among them al-Qaida chief Ayman al-ZawahiriTaliban chiefMullah Omar, and Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Some American intelligence officials reportedly suspect that Zawahiri may be receiving protection from elements of the Pakistani government.

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