Pak debate on US assistance targets India
President Barak Obama has signed the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill named after its sponsors and passed by the US Congress. In the statute book, it’s titled Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009.
The new law triples non-military US aid to Pakistan to $ 7.5 billion over the next five years at the rate of 1.5 billion dollars every year towards healthcare, education and creation of infrastructure in the social sector.
Simply put, the assistance is aimed at keeping Pakistan’s donor economy afloat besides enabling Uncle Sam to connect with the people of the country where it is blamed for all ills and evils.
But why isn’t the money on offer acceptable to Pakistan? Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani has reservations, so does former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Critics of whom there is no shortage think the law seeks to compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty. They say the conditions linked to continuation of assistance would help Pakistan’s detractors and adversaries (read India) influence the Secretary of State’s mandatory yearly certification How? The law is explicit about what it wants certified by Hillary Clinton in return of unhindered financial aid: 1) Pakistan’s cooperation in efforts to dismantle supplier networks (including Pakistani nationals) dealing in weapons-related nuclear material; 2) Sustained commitment to stop elements within the Pak military or its intelligence agency from supporting terrorist groups carrying out attacks against the US, the coalition forces in Afghanistan and the territory or people of neighbouring countries (read India).
India has always suspected Pakistan of misusing or diverting foreign assistance for military purposes. From its standpoint, the Kerry-Lugar law is well intentioned. But those who want to have it redone (which the US refused when Obama signed it) or rejected by Pakistani Parliament are opposing it for those very reasons.
Sample the following for a clearer view of the law’s objective: “Preventing al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross border attacks into neighbouring countries….”
It also binds the administration of financial assistance to closure of terrorist camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), dismantling terrorist bases of operation in order parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when furnished with intelligence about high level terrorist targets.
Muridke is the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s headquarters near Lahore. Little surprise then that habituated India bashers view the Kerry-Lugar initiative as an opportunity for New Delhi and not Islamabad. They say it will provide their eastern neighbour another address to protest Pakistan’s procastinations of the kind alleged in the Mumbai case. The other more serious conditionality from the Army’s viewpoint is about “the security forces of Pakistan not subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.”
In a country that has seen several coups and dictators, the proviso should help strengthen democracy and the rule of law. But most Pakistani opinion makers think otherwise. They blame it on America’s desire to control their country and its vital institutions in the guise of promoting civilian rule.
The most debated passage of the law— apart from the one that names the LeT and Muridke —- is about control of civilian government and parliament on the military’s budget, its chain of command, promotion of senior military leaders, strategic guidance and planning and the military’s involvement in civil administration.
On the face of it, the US Congress has solid reasons to be doubly cautious, given Pakistan’s past record in diverting development funds and those provided for fighting terrorism. But the sovereignty plank wouldn’t be all that easy to defeat, mixed as it is with a deep distrust of the US, a strong dose of anti-India sentiment and the civilian regime’s lack of credibility.
An explanatory statement for “accurate interpretation” of the law says the conditions put by the US Congress were applicable to its executive— not Pakistan— to ensure the assistance benefited the people of Pakistan. It assures there is no intent to micro-manage or impinge on the recipient country’s national security interests.
But political consensus seems elusive on the legislation that’ll fetch Pakistan the money it direly needs. It has divided the country in the middle of a veritable war where terrorists are bombing urban centers and the army the wild, hilly terrains of Waziristan.