WASHINGTON  - The US government has asked Congress for a sharp reduction of economic and security aid to Pakistan, its ally in the war on terror, for the year 2014, according to a new Congressional report.“The (Obama) administration has requested nearly USD 1.2 billion economic and security aid to Pakistan for financial year 2014. This represents a steep decline from total assistance of about USD 1.9 billion (excluding Coalition Support Fund) during financial year 2012,” the report on US aid to Pakistan prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said.CRS provides policy and legal analysis to Congressional Committees and members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. Congressional sources said the move on Pakistan aid, if approved, will result in a cut of more than one-third against that given to the South Asian country in 2012.Estimated financial year 2013 allocations are not yet available, the CRS said. It said the fiscal 2014 budget request indicates the level of importance the Obama Administration places on a “stable, democratic, and prosperous” Pakistan because of its “critical role” in the region with respect to US counter-terrorism efforts, nuclear nonproliferation, regional stability, the peace process in Afghanistan, and regional economic integration and development.For fiscal year 2014, beginning October 1 this year, the administration is requesting a total of USD 1,162.57 million, of which about two-thirds is for economic assistance and one-third is for security assistance, the report said.“The total includes USD 281.2 million, considered to be Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) that is not part of the core request but is identified by the administration as extraordinary, temporary funding needs for frontline states,” CRS said.The report said, “Since 1948, the United States has pledged more than $30 billion in direct aid, about half for military assistance, and more than two-thirds appropriated in the post-2001 period. Many observers question the gains accrued to date,variously identifying poor planning, lack of both transparency and capacity, corruption, and slow reform by the Pakistani government as major obstacles. “Moreover, any goodwill generated by US aid is offset by widespread and intense anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani people. Developments in 2011 put immense strains on bilateral relations, making uncertain the future direction of the US aid programme. “Relations have remained tense since that time, although civilian aid has continued to flow and substantive defence transfers are set to resume later in 2013.Disruptions in 2011 included the killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani city and a NATO military raid into Pakistani territory near Afghanistan that inadvertently left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. The latter development led Islamabad to bar US and NATO access to vital ground lines of communication (GLOCs) linking Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea for a period of more than seven months. More recently, the 113th Congress is focusing on measures to reduce the federal budget deficit. This backdrop appears to be further influencing debate over assistance levels to a topranking recipient that many say lacks accountability and even credibility as a US ally. For many lawmakers, the core issue remains balancing Pakistan’s strategic importance to the United States—not least its role in Afghan reconciliation efforts—with the pervasive and mutual distrust bedeviling the bilateral relationship.“The 111th Congress passed the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-73) authorising the President to provide $1.5 billion in annual nonmilitary aid to Pakistan for five years (FY2010-FY2014) and requiring annual certification for release of security-related aid.Such conditionality is a contentious issue. Congress also established two new funds in 2009, the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF, within Defence Department appropriations) and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF, within State-Foreign Operations Appropriations). “The 112th Congress enacted further conditions and limitations on assistance.Among these were certification requirements for nearly all FY2012 assistance (in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012—P.L. 112-74) and for FY2013 Coalition Support Funds (CSF, military reimbursements funded out of the Pentagon) and PCF (in the National Defense Authorisation Act for FY2013—P.L. 112-239). Similar provisions appear in pending FY2014 legislation. In September 2012, the administration waived FY2012 certification requirements under included national security provisions and, in February 2013, it issued a waiver to allow for the transfer of major defence equipment in FY2013.”

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 04-Jul-2013 here.