WASHINGTON - Having failed to arrange funding for a previously agreed F-16 fighter jet sale to Pakistan, the Obama administration is now urging the Republican-controlled Congress not to block US aid worth $450 million to the South Asian country for failing to take action against the Haqqani network, stating it will “complicate progress” in bilateral ties.

A policy statement from the White House on this issue , along with other objections of the administration to National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA-2017), came as the bill made its way to the House of Representatives from the House Armed Services Committee.

The bill, HR 4909, seeks to penalise Pakistan for failing to “demonstrate its commitment” and combating the Haqqanis, is likely to come up for vote later this week.

“We share the Committee’s concerns regarding the threat posed to our forces and interests in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network, and we continue to engage with Pakistan at the highest levels regarding the need for concerted action specifically against the group,” the White House said.

Under NDAA 2017, of the total amount of reimbursement and support authorised for Pakistan during the period beginning on October 1, 2016 and ending on December 31, 2017, $50 million would not be eligible for a national security waiver unless the Secretary of Defence certifies that Pakistan continues to conduct operations against the Haqqani network.

“The administration objects to section 1212 (of HR 4919), which would make $450 million of CSF (Coalition Support Fund) to Pakistan ineligible for the Secretary of Defence’s waiver authority unless the Secretary provides a certification to the Congressional defence committees,” the White House said.

But, it added, the restriction in Section 1212 would “unnecessarily complicate progress in our bilateral relationship on this issue and would limit the Secretary of Defence’s ability to act in the US national security interest.”

The administration has also asked Congress to retain the authority to make certain funds available to support stability activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas “as provided in section 1212(f) of the FY 2016 NDAA”.

According to the Bill, the Defence Secretary also needs to certify that Pakistan is demonstrating commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network from using North Waziristan as a safe haven and is actively coordinating with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of terrorists, including the Haqqani Network, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

There is similar certification requirement in the current fiscal 2016 ending on September 31, 2016, but the amount is $300 million. Defence Secretary has not been able to give necessary certification for the release of such a fund to Pakistan so far.

The House Armed Services Committee has said that it will continue to review the reimbursements made to Pakistan and how it comforts with the future of US policy, including key counter-terrorism and security objectives in the region.

The Obama Administration has opposed any move to either restrict or condition US military aid to Pakistan arguing that its ties with Islamabad “vital”.

DOES NOT SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BALOCHISTAN: US

INP adds: The US State Department has assured Pakistan that it does not support the demand for an independent Balochistan, as it respects the country’s unity and territorial integrity.

“The US government respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan, and we do not support independence for Balochistan,” says a policy statement by the US State Department.

Elaborating the US position on the matter, a State Department official said: “We have consistently urged all parties in Pakistan to work out their differences peaceably and through a valid political process.”

The statement followed two seminars that Baloch nationalists in Washington held at Carnegie Endowment and Capitol Hall this week, urging the US administration and lawmakers to support their struggle.

In their speeches, Baloch activists pointed out “gross human rights violations, including disappearances, torture and political suppression” that they alleged the Pakistani govt was carrying out in Balochistan.