Much to the dismay of the government’s detractors and contrary to the vilification campaign going on in the country against the leadership, the US Senate voted on Thursday to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to roughly 1.5 billion dollars per year through 2014 in its effort to show the world that Pakistan is a critical and strategic ally.
The bill, passed unanimously, had been agreed upon between the Senate and House sponsors of legislation passed separately by each chamber earlier this year. The sponsors are Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar. The bill has incorporated improvements over the earlier version of the Kerry-Lugar Bill passed by the Senate and the House. The vital aspect of the bill is that its language is far less prescriptive and stringent than the original version. Specific references to India as well as AQ Khan have been eliminated while the language related to nuclear proliferation is markedly toned down – from “ensure access of US investigators to individual suspected” to receiving cooperation “in efforts such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks.” Richard Holbrooke, special US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Kerry-Lugar Bill will become law next week.
On Thursday, in an unprecedented show of support for Pakistan, major economic powers agreed to the formation of a multi-donor trust fund (MDTF) to help the country build its tribal areas which have been the worst victim of the fight against the militants.
In an unprecedented show of solidarity President Barack Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gordon Brown co-chaired the meeting of Friends Democratic of Pakistan (FoDP).
President Asif Ali Zardari stressed the significance of Mr. Obama’s gesture, saying it reflected the confidence the international community had in the new democratic set-up in Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed the summit a ‘diplomatic success’, stating that it represented a vote of confidence in the Pakistani nation. “We have come a long way. Democracy has completed a full circle,” he said. “We have a message for the extremists: There’s no place for them in the civilized world.” The President went on to add, “A stable, prosperous Pakistan is the world’s greatest hope against the spread of extremism and terrorism.”
The total amount of the Bill passed by US Senate for the FY 2009 is $3021.0 m. $1147.5m would be given under the Head of Development and Reconstruction out of which $33.5m will be given under the Head of Child Survival and Health Program whereas Economic Support Fund would receive $1,114.0m while $1,102m will be made available for the country in FY2010 with $27.9m and $1,074.3m on Child Survival and Health Program and Economic Support Fund respectively.
Pakistan will receive a total of $1103.1m under the Head of Security Assistance out of which Foreign Military Financing would be $300.0m this year, whereas $700.0m have been allocated for Pakistan Counter Insurgency Fund; $13.3m would be spent on Non-Profit, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Issues. The Head of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement would receive a total of $87.5m while $2.3m would be spent under the Head of IMET. It is worthy to mention here that $298.0m, $22.7m, $155.2m and $4.0m respectively would be given to the country under the same Head in FY 2010.
Pakistan will receive a total of $255.4m under the Head of Humanitarian grant; further details are that Migration and Refugee Assistance will be given $69.6m while Food for Progress $31.0m, PL480 $36.3m and International Disaster Assistance will be given to the tune of $118.0m in the FY 2009. Migration and Refugee Assistance will receive $20.0m while no money has been reserved for Food for Progress, PL and International Disaster Assistance in the FY 2010.Total State Department ops will entail $2,506.0m in this fiscal year whereas it would be $1602.0m in the next fiscal year.
The Department of Defense will receive a total of $515.6m in which Counter Narcotics will receive an amount of $63.3m this year and $38.4m in the next financial year while $25.0m have been reserved on the name of FATA Authority this year.
Ensuring that the present government does not face any obstacle in its democratic dispensation, a condition in the Bill requires that the security forces of Pakistan do not subvert judicial processes. The aim of the legislation is to promote stability in the country.
It is worthy to mention here that the Bill underlines the importance of supporting Pakistan’s national security needs to fight the ongoing counterinsurgency and improve its border security and control. However, it does not specify any amount or percentage. This provides the Administration maximum flexibility and none of the conditions can set in motion automatic sanctions.
Critics will come out with all sorts of accusation but the fact of the matter is that the importance of FoDP cannot be underestimated. Heads of states and governments of more than twenty countries gathered under one roof to show their confidence in the democratic set-up in Islamabad, a fact which was also acknowledged by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who applauded Islamabad’s campaign to rid the restive border areas of violent extremism and bring stability to the region. The British leader commended the leadership of President Zardari and the role of armed forces for launching an effective offensive against the militants.
Brown said all member countries of the FoDP were unanimous in voicing their support for Pakistan towards addressing economic and security challenges facing the nation.
Earlier, addressing the meeting, US President Barack Obama announced that the Senate Thursday unanimously passed the long-awaited Kerry-Lugar bill. The measure will authorise $1.5 billion in economic assistance for Pakistan annually over five years. Obama reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to economic cooperation with Pakistan.
This has been a truly remarkable week for Pakistan on the world stage. Pakistan stands perhaps in the strongest diplomatic position in its sixty two year history. And perhaps the most important message that President Zardari sends to our nation — both its military leadership and to the people — is that democracy does indeed deliver.