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Pakistani military expresses concern over US aid bill

world Updated: Oct 08, 2009 09:16 IST

Pakistan's army on Wednesday expressed "serious concern" over a US financial aid package that critics say has conditions that compromise the sovereignty of the Muslim country.

The US Congress last week approved a bill to provide Pakistan $1.5 billion annually for the next five years for social and economic assistance.

The army described some elements of the legislation as "impacting on national security" in a statement following a meeting of the corps commanders of the Pakistan Army chaired by its chief General Ishfaq Parvez Kayani.

"It is the parliament, that represents the will of the people of Pakistan, which would deliberate on the issue, enabling the government to develop a national response," the statement said.

The US aid package, which has yet to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, conditions the aid with Pakistan's support in a fight against the Taliban and terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which have safe-havens in country's lawless tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Western countries have suspected that "elements" within the Pakistani military and its prime spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence for assisting Islamist militants that launch cross border attacks into Afghanistan.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said it was natural that an aid package would include "certain consultation mechanisms, monitoring mechanisms" to protect taxpayers. But these were "in no way intended to impinge on Pakistan's sovereignty."

"The main thing is that we have a common interest here," said Kelly. "We share the goal of meeting the challenge of violent extremism."

The legislation demands Pakistan take action against nuclear proliferation networks by giving the United States information or access "to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks," in a clause that Pakistanis believe is meant for disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Khan, 72, publicly admitted that he shared nuclear secrets with Iran, North Korea and Libya in 2004 and remains under house arrest since then. But he still enjoys the status of a national hero for being the founder of Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Some analysts have said many former and in-service Pakistani military officials might have been involved in the proliferation together with Khan.

Pakistan has repeatedly said it has provided information gained from Khan to US officials but would never allow them to question him.

The army statement came as the country's national parliament started a debate on the bill on the request of the main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

A PML-N senior leader and lawmaker Javed Hashmi said the US aid package was pushing Pakistan into complete "enslavement of the Americans."

"We should rely on our own resources instead begging aids from other countries," he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday said the bill was a "sincere effort" to aid Pakistan in building up its economy and democratic institutions.