The US House of Representatives voted to cut $650 million in military assistance to Pakistan on Thursday, acquiescing to Republican demands for deeper reductions in aid to Islamabad.
The move, led by Republican Congressman Ted Poe, took place when the House was debating the Department of Defence Appropriations Act for 2013, which allocates money for the US military budget.
Addressing the House floor, Rep. Ted Poe, said it was time for a new strategy with Pakistan, while describing Pakistan as a “Benedict Arnold” nation. Benedict Arnold was an American general who defected to the British side during the Revolutionary War.
“They (Pakistan) have proven to be deceptive and deceitful and a danger to the United States,” said Rep. Poe, adding that Pakistan did not deserve US money.
Rep. Poe had initially demanded a cut of $1.3 billion, but on the intervention of ranking member Rep. Young, he was asked to amend it, leading to a cut of $650 million.
The fresh cut follows Washington’s recent efforts to bridge the gap with Pakistan. The inflammatory rhetoric and cheerful endorsement in the US House may not be reassuring for the Obama administration as it tries to rebuild relations with Islamabad.
“More money is not going to solve the problem. … Pakistan is playing America.”
Poe went on to add that Pakistan was a bad ally before they closed the Nato supply routes, adding that they didn’t need to pay Pakistan to betray the US as Islamabad would do it for ‘free’.
“The only thing Pakistan’s military rulers understand is dollars, and as long as we keep the money flowing, they have no incentive to change their evil ways.”
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who had earlier called for Balochistan to be given the right to self-determination, said Pakistan is a war profiteer, and was “laughing all the way to the bank.”
He urged the House not to give assistance to Pakistan until Dr. Shakil Afridi, a government surgeon who helped the CIA uncover Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, was freed. The issue of Dr Afridi could further imperil US aid to Pakistan, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he has enough votes in the Senate to end all aid to Pakistan.
“If Dr Afridi is still in jail next week, I will force this vote,” Paul said on the floor Tuesday morning.
Rep Norman Dicks (D-Wash), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, appeared to agree to the compromise. The action came as the House took up the underlying bill, a $608.2 billion defence appropriations measure for the coming year, including $88.2 billion in emergency funds for overseas contingency operations, chiefly for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The amendment to cut assistance to Pakistan was agreed to by a voice vote. The defence bill has yet to be approved by the Senate.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.