Two amendments proposing to cut $2 billion in US aid to Pakistan were voted against in the United States House of Representatives on Thursday, despite the discomfort expressed by several legislators about continuing aid to Pakistan after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.
The amendments to the Defence Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012 were moved by Representative Ted Poe, a Republican from the state of Texas.
The first amendment proposed slashing $1 billion from the funds that the US government gives countries that have partnered in helping the US in the war against terrorism. That amendment failed in a 131-297 vote.
The second amendment to the defence appropriations act moved by Poe proposed a cut of $1 billion in funds that the US gives Pakistan for its efforts in counter-insurgency activities.
Various members of the Senate and House have in the past called for a new look at aid being given to Pakistan after the Abbottabad raid in May that led to Osama Bin Laden’s death.
Amendments to money bills are frequently proposed by several members of the 435-member US House of Representatives, but most do not pass. Under the US political system, most of the deliberations and debates over specific bills takes place within the committees, both in the House and the Senate, where the bills originate.
Poe is not a member of any of the House committees that would be involved in drafting the defence budget, or even the overall US budget. He is also not a member of the Congressional leadership of the Republican Party.
Ted Poe holds the same seat in the United States Congress that was once held by Charlie Wilson, the congressman who was instrumental in securing US financial support for the mujahideen against the Soviet Union in the 1980s war in Afghanistan. Wilson’s efforts were chronicled in a book by George Crile titled “Charlie Wilson’s War”, which was also made into a movie by the same name.
The US government has halted the release of money under the Coalition Support Fund, as relations between the two countries have been marred by mistrust. US officials believe Pakistan overstates the expenses it incurs in the war against terrorism.
The fund was set up by the US Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks to reimburse allies for costs in supporting the US-led war on militancy. Until May, Pakistan had received $8.8 billion from this fund since the attacks.
Last month, reports had emerged that the US has threatened that it will cut off civil and military aid to Pakistan after the country launched a crackdown against the “Central Investigation Agency (CIA) network” and expressed reluctance to go after the deadly Haqqani group based in North Waziristan Agency.
That the amendment was introduced by a Republican in Congress should worry policymakers in Islamabad, who have traditionally relied on support from that party since Democrats, the other major party in the United States, has historically been more hostile towards Pakistan.
While Republican leaders did not back the amendment, several influential lawmakers, such as Senator Lindsay Graham (Republican from South Carolina) and Senator Carl Levin (Democrat from Michigan) have questioned the US alliance with Pakistan and have begun to use increasingly hostile language about what they perceive to be Islamabad’s deceptive behaviour.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2011.