SOURCE : Indiawest.com

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, introduced legislation Apr. 2 that would increase aid to Pakistan but with the stipulation that the White House must verify that the country's military is not supporting terrorist organizations, including those that have attacked India.

Berman's bill, known as the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement - PEACE - Act would provide $3 billion in military aid and $7.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to the country over the next five years.

The bill states that the U.S. expects Pakistan "not to support any person or group that conducts violence, sabotage or other activities meant to instill fear or terror in India."

It requires the Obama administration to verify that the Pakistani government has attempted to shut down the terrorist training camps of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The LeT and the JuD are organizations widely believed to be responsible for the terrorist attacks on Mumbai last November which killed nearly 200 people.

The bill also requires the Obama administration to verify that the Pakistani military and its intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, are not supporting terrorist groups that have attacked the U.S., India or Afghanistan.

The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. government officials, reported in March that the ISI is providing money, military supplies and strategic planning to Taliban commanders. Pakistan's military and civilian leaders have publicly denied government ties to militant groups, reported the Times.

In a reference to A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist accused of selling arms to Libya, Iran and North Korea, Berman's bill specifies that the U.S. be allowed to investigate individuals suspected of proliferating nuclear materials. Khan was pardoned by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and released from house arrest in February.

"The bill was drafted with a clear understanding that we need to create a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan — one that transcends our mutual counterinsurgency and counterterrorism goals, and speaks to the needs of average Pakistani citizens," Berman said in a press release to India-West.

In March, Obama urged the Senate to pass a similar bill co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry, D-Mass, and Richard Lugar R-Ind., which authorizes $1.5 billion per year for five years to build schools, roads and hospitals in Pakistan.

Obama called the humanitarian aid "a down payment on our own future." The president cautioned that he was not providing Pakistan with a "blank check," and said the country must be committed to rooting out terrorist elements (I-W, Apr. 3).

The Kerry/Lugar bill, currently being drafted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is scheduled to be introduced when Congress returns from recess Apr. 20.

In Islamabad this week, Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the U.S. would not impose any conditions on its aid to Pakistan.

Earlier, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani urged Kerry not to attach stipulations to his Senate bill, warning that aid with strings attached would fail to generate goodwill and cooperation.

Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani told the Washington Post that his government welcomes Berman's initiative, but warned that it would not be prudent to restrict security aid, as Pakistan's military is spearheading the fight against terrorism.

The U.S. India Political Action Committee praised the Berman bill, saying it was a good start, but added that more needs to be done.

In a statement posted on its Web site, USINPAC president Sanjay Puri characterized the situation in Pakistan as "dangerous."

"We will continue to urge close coordination between the Obama administration and the United States Congress to ensure the accountability and transparency of U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing to the Government of Pakistan," he said.

Several region specialists told India-West recently that Pakistan has failed to account for much of the billions of dollars the U.S. has flowed its way since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that U.S. money could indeed be supporting terrorist activity in that country.

Michel Potts reports from Los Angeles:

A delegation of Indian American community leaders met with Berman at his Los Angeles office Apr. 9 to discuss the PEACE Act.

During the meeting, Ramesh Mahajan asked why the U.S. continues to give more financial aid to Pakistan when all evidence points towards the fact that the aid has been used to build more arms and create a nuclear threat in the region.

Berman said that Pakistan is presently going through major turmoil. The aid being given to Pakistan is to assist them in bringing stability, he said, adding that it is in the interest of India and the world that Pakistan has stability.



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