Washington: In another blow to Pakistan, a key congressional panel has voted to adopt tougher benchmarks for it to receive US aid and authorised the secretary of state to suspend it if Islamabad fails to act against terror groups carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.
The House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved by voice vote the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which seeks certification from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for disbursement of US aid to Pakistan, making it conditional for Islamabad to take action against terrorist groups. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. It provides USD 47 billion in regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This is USD 10 billion fewer than the amount earmarked for fiscal year 2017, when counting additional funds provided last year in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act.
Within this amount, OCO funding totals USD 12 billion, which supports operations and assistance in areas of conflict, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The bill says that none of the funds appropriated by this Act under the 'Economic Support Fund', the 'International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement', and the 'Foreign Military Financing Programme' for Pakistan may be made available unless the secretary of state certifies to the committees that Islamabad is taking action against terrorist groups. Under the bill, the secretary of state is asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in counter- terrorism efforts against the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, and others, including taking effective steps to prevent such terrorist groups from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.