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US Congress set to vote on Pakistan aid with 'no terror' conditions

world Updated: Sep 30, 2009 20:18 IST

The US Congress is set to take the final step to triple non-military aid to Pakistan, but with stringent conditions demanding action against extremist groups on its soil and preventing attacks on neighbouring countries, namely India.

Though the bill scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday does not mention India so as not to hurt Islamabad's sensitivities, it specifically lists extremist movements Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the outfit behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

After the House vote, the compromise package to ramp up aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year through 2014 focusing on education and infrastructure would need only the signature of President Barack Obama, who has enthusiastically supported the measure.

The compromise version with the Senate, where the bill was approved unanimously after lawmakers toned down some of the stricter conditions on the aid, also orders the Obama administration to ensure that Pakistan prevent any proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The US has voiced concern over the freedom of movement given to notorious Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who five years ago admitted leaking nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The bill, which brought on board even some of Pakistan's sharpest critics on Capitol Hill, sets as a key aim the consolidation of power in civilian hands.

The conditions specifically include six-monthly evaluations by Washington of efforts by Pakistan to (a) disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist and terrorist groups in the FATA (tribal areas) and settled areas; (B) eliminate the safe havens of such forces in Pakistan; (C) close terrorist camps, including those of LeT and JeM; (D) cease all support for extremist and terrorist groups; and (E) prevent attacks into neighbouring countries.

Section 203 of the Senate Bill enjoins the secretary of state to certify that Pakistan has made progress on matters such as "ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the US or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries".

The secretary of state also has to certify that Pakistan is stopping terrorist groups such as LeT and JeM from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries, dismantling terrorist bases of operations, including in Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.

Muridke is widely known to be a terrorist 'pilgrim centre' where jehadis gather for congregations patronised by the Pakistani intelligence establishment. Quetta is where western agencies suspect Pakistan is harbouring the Taliban shura headed by the one-eyed Mullah Omar.