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US Congress seeks to condition aid to Pakistan

world Updated: Dec 01, 2016 13:00 IST
PTI
PTI
US Congress

The US Congressional conference committee asked the Pentagon to ensure that Pakistan does not use its military aid in persecution of minority groups like Baloch, Sindhis and Hazaras.(Reuters)

The US Congressional conference committee has sought to condition a significant portion of American funding to Pakistan on a Pentagon certification that the country is taking demonstrable steps against the dreaded Haqqani Network in its territory.

In another significant move, the committee asked the Pentagon to ensure that Pakistan does not use its military aid in persecution of minority groups like Baloch, Sindhis and Hazaras.

The National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2017, passed on Wednesday by a Congressional conference committee, authorises up to $900 million in coalition support funds for Pakistan. Of this, $400 million has been made contingent upon a certification from the defence secretary.

US defence secretary Ashton Carter refused to give a similar certification to Pakistan this year as a result of which it was not given a $300 million under coalition support fund.

NDAA-2017 “refocuses security assistance to Pakistan on activities that directly support US national security interests and conditions a significant portion of funding on a certification from the secretary of defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistani territory,” said senator John McCain.

The conference report (running into more than 3,000 pages) on $618 billion National Defence Authorisation Bill remains concerned about the persecution of groups seeking political or religious freedom in Pakistan, including the Balochi, Sindhi and Hazara ethnic groups, as well as religious groups, including Christian, Hindu and Ahmadiyya Muslims.

The conferees - comprising of members of the house of representative and the senate - believe that the secretary of defence should continue to closely monitor the provision of US security assistance to Pakistan and ensure that it is not using its military or any other assistance to persecute minority groups, the report said.

The NDAA allows for reimbursement of Pakistan for security activities along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, including providing training and equipment for the Pakistan Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, members of the conference committee expressed concern that Pakistan continues to delay or deny visas for US personnel who could assist with the provision of such training.

Given this situation, the report recommended the Pentagon to condition reimbursements for training and equipment with appropriate access by US personnel.

It now needs to be formally passed by the two chambers of the Congress - the house of representatives and the senate - before US President Barack Obama can sign it into a law.