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Islamabad answerable for its actions: US senator

Islamabad answerable for its actions: US senator

Author: Chidanand Rajghatta
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 22, 2009

While diluting the bill on economic aid to Pakistan, the US House foreign affairs committee (HFAC), in a token gesture, has reworked the language to say Islamabad would have to provide "access to Pakistani nationals'' connected to proliferation networks, "cease support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups'' and "prevent cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries'' as conditions for US security assistance.

It was the best the administration could extract from the committee after Pakistani lawmakers remonstrated about the benchmarks they said were degrading. "We need aid, but aid with dignity,'' Marvi Memon, a visiting Pakistani legislator said in a C-Span interview. "There are some no-go areas that are totally not acceptable.'' She identified the legislative demand for access to A Q Khan as one such area.

But US lawmakers remained unimpressed by what some Congressional sources said were Pakistan's tantrums. "For far too long, Pakistan has taken US assistance with one hand while undoing US efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan with the other. For far too long, Pakistan has been receiving US aid to fight terrorism while keeping its army aimed at India. This legislation lays down the principle-that Pakistani actions will have consequences,'' Ed Royce, a Republican member from California, said.

Citing that the bill would still hold Pakistan accountable on specific benchmarks, Royce said that "Congress is sending an important signal-that we must see progress on A Q Khan, the ISI, and terrorists targeting US troops and neighbouring India''.

The House committee bill now goes before the full House even as similar legislation, which is much lighter on benchmarks, makes its way through the US Senate. The two bills will be discussed at a conference to arrive at one bill which will be voted and sent to the President.

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