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US Senate ties defence aid for Pakistan to action taken against Lashkar-e-Taiba

The Lashkar-e-Taiba founded by Hafiz Saeed has primarily targeted India but it has been increasingly blamed for attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2017 18:59 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Pakistan-US relations,Lashkar-e-Taiba,Hafiz Saeed
File photo of Hafiz Saeed, founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, speaking to the media shortly before he was placed under house arrest in Lahore, Pakistan, on January 30, 2017. (Reuters)

The US Senate passed a legislation on Monday that for the first time proposes to make payments to Pakistan for its cooperation in the war in Afghanistan incumbent on action taken by it against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the banned terror group founded by Hafiz Saeed.

An amount of $350 million, which is half of the $700 million set aside under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for compensating Pakistan for its cooperation in operations in Afghanistan, will be tied to Islamabad’s actions against LeT.

This will be in addition to the action required against the Haqqani Network, which has been part of the precondition for three years. The LeT has primarily targeted India but it has also been increasingly blamed for attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.

This is only a proposal, technically, that will make it to the final legislation only if it is reconciled with the version of the defence budget proposed and passed by the House of Representatives during a legislative process called “conference”, which may or may not approve the Senate’s proposal.

But the proposal itself, of tying the payments to Pakistani action against the LeT, was described by Senate officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the implications freely, as symbolically significant and reflecting the sense of the Senate and its frustration with an untrustworthy ally.

According to Section 1213 of the Defense Authorization Bill passed by the Senate for 2018 — which is essentially the proposed $700 billion defence budget — the CSF payment will be incumbent on Pakistan conducting “military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe havens, fundraising and recruiting efforts, and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (another way to spell Lashkar-e-Taiba) in Pakistan”.

The bill added that Pakistan must show “it has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba from using any Pakistan territory as a safe haven and for fundraising and recruiting efforts”.

Pakistan must also show that it “is making an attempt to actively coordinate with the Government of Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants, such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border”.

Islamabad must also demonstrate “progress in arresting and prosecuting senior leaders and mid-level operatives” of the Haqqani Network and LeT.

Pakistan doesn’t stand to lose too much because of this new addition to conditions because it is already not able to collect the full amount due to the US administration’s failure to certify it is doing enough against the Haqqani Network.

But, as a US official said on background, “this was a big signal” from the Senate.

First Published: Sep 19, 2017 15:03 IST