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Obama signs huge aid package into law, assures no interference

US President Barack Obama signed a $ 7.5 billion (Rs 3.45 trillion approximately) aid package for Pakistan into law on Thursday, after Congress offered assurances the plan did not violate Pakistani sovereignty.

world Updated: Oct 15, 2009 23:46 IST

US President Barack Obama signed a $ 7.5 billion (Rs 3.45 trillion approximately) aid package for Pakistan into law on Thursday, after Congress offered assurances the plan did not violate Pakistani sovereignty.

Obama signed the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan.

Act of 2009 — popularly known as Kerry-Lugar Bill — a day before the expiry of the mandatory 10 days time after the bill was sent to him by the Congress.

Obama's move followed days of drama over the package, which saw Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi rush to Washington after opposition erupted in Islamabad to conditions of the bill.

Some Pakistani politicians said the aid bill was an American attempt to micro-manage Pakistan's civilian and military affairs.

The powerful military establishment had balked at calls on Pakistan to fight Islamic extremists.

The Pakistan army last week raised serious concerns over the provision requiring periodical assessments by the US secretary of state to provide certification that the military is not subverting Pakistan's political and judicial processes.

Fears for the package's future were quelled when Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman, who head the committees handling foreign relations in Congress, gave Qureshi a document stating that the plan did not impose conditions or infringe on Pakistani sovereignty.

“This law is the tangible manifestation of broad support for Pakistan in the US, as evidenced by its bipartisan, bicameral, unanimous passage in Congress,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Gibbs said the new law was based on a shared commitment to improving living conditions in Pakistan, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and combating extremism that threatens both Pakistan and the United States.

The White House said the aid package provides $1.5 billion annually for economic and social programmes as the Obama administration works to shore up Pakistan’s return to civilian rule and to encourage it in the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaida militants.