Sunday November 28, 2021

Decision of US payments rests with secretaries

March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON: The new spending bill of whooping $1.3 trillion approved by the US House of Representatives has incorporated security related funds for Pakistan.

The bill discussed will enable the US government to operate till the end of September. More than 2200-page long draft bill also provides funds to Pakistan, which were halted earlier this year.

However, the bill explicitly points out that the payments for reimbursement to the government of Pakistan may be made available unless the Secretary of Defence, in coordination with the Secretary of State, certifies to the congressional defence committees that the government of Pakistan is "cooperating with the United States in counterterrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, al-Qaeda,and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations, including taking steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out border attacks into neighbouring countries." The bill also mentions not supporting terrorist activities against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and asks that "Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan." Under the International Security Assistance programme, it allows the funds only to support counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities in Pakistan.

The Trump administration halted over a billion dollar assistance to Pakistan this January accusing that the country is not actively and decisively taking action against militant groups and is providing sanctuaries. The Pentagon and the State Department officials had clarified that the funds could be released on a case-to-case basis. The same was provided in the new spending bill as well. It says that "the Secretary of Defence, in coordination with the Secretary of State, may waive the restrictions on a case-by-case basis by certifying in writing to the congressional defence committee that it is in the national security interest to do so."

Provided that the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State exercise such waiver authority, the secretaries shall report to the congressional defence committees on both the justification for the waiver and on the requirements of this section that the government of Pakistan was not able to meet. It also allows them to submit a classified report if necessary.

The bill continues to withhold $33 million in financial assistance to Pakistan unless the secretaries inform the Congress that Dr Shakil Afridi was released from jail and cleared of all charges. According to the legislation, the Secretary of State would consult Committees on Appropriations within 30 days. The Congress also expects the Secretary of State to inform of any changes to the current policy along with its justification.

Similarly, the civilian aid to Pakistan is tied to a report by the Secretary explaining any amount of financing and other support from the Pakistani government to schools supported by, affiliated with, or run by the Taliban or any domestic or foreign terrorist organisation in the country.