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US may cut aid to Pak army over rights abuses

world Updated: Oct 23, 2010 00:05 IST
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The US government plans to cut military aid to several Pakistani military units as punishment for human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial executions, according to senior officials.

But at the same time, the Obama administration is reportedly in the final stages of agreeing a new $2bn aid package for Pakistan to pay for equipment needed in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The sanctions centre on the deaths of hundreds of people at the hands of Pakistan’s regular and paramilitary forces in the Swat Valley since an operation to drive out the Taliban started in May 2009.

Human rights groups estimate that at least 300 people have died in extrajudicial executions, one of which was recently captured in a gruesome video that circulated on the Internet.

But Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, told human rights activists in Washington last week that he believed this was a conservative estimate, and that the real number of deaths was “much higher”. The units to be sanctioned have not been identified, but they are understood to include elements within 12 Punjab infantry regiment, which is based in north-western Mardan, and units from the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force recruited from the Pashtun tribes.

The White House has not officially informed Pakistan of the decision even though senior Pakistani military and civilian leaders are in Washington for meetings with the government.

Earlier this month, a harrowing video surfaced which purported to show a group of soldiers shooting six blindfolded men in the country's troubled north-west.

US military assistance cannot be given to foreign armed forces suspected of committing, encouraging or tolerating atrocities under the 1997 Leahy agreement, a law named after the Democratic senator who championed it, Patrick Leahy.

General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, had issued an internal order about four months ago "telling units to behave," a US official said.