Washington: Influential American Senators have said they would oppose Obama Administration’s proposal to triple civilian aid to Pakistan and substantially increase assistance to its army without clear cut benchmarks and accountability provisions in it.
In fact these Senators, both from the Republican and Democratic parties, at times entered into a verbal dual with Richard Holbrooke, the Special US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, during a hearing on Pakistan convened by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Fearing that the new financial aid to Pakistan could meet the same fate as that of $12 billion given to Islamabad by the previous regime, these Senators, at times agitated, cautioned Obama Administration that it should not expect a smooth approval of its proposals in the absence of accountability and benchmarks.
At one point of time Holbrooke even remarked that he was “troubled” with these statements. “I am deeply troubled by what you’ve said,” Holbrooke told Robert Menendez, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey.
“You’re asking us to vote for a whole new set of money without knowing whether there are going to be benchmarks, without knowing whether we have a better system of accountability. I personally can’t continue down that road, as much as I think this is critical,” Menendez said as other members of the Committee looked stunned.
“So there’s going to have to be some give and take here if you want the support of some of us. I have been supportive along the way but we are just not here for a blank cheque,” he said.
When Holbrooke pointed out that the US should not give the impression of ignoring Pakistan, the Senator shot back, “Let me say that I don’t believe that $12 billion later that we have been ignoring Pakistan. If $12 billion later you would tell any US taxpayer that we had been ignoring Pakistan they would probably bristle at the idea.”
Republican Senator Richard Lugar along with Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Committee, sponsored the Kerry-Lugar bill, which proposes $7.5 billion financial aid to Pakistan in the next five years, tripling the non-military assistance to the country besieged by the Taliban militants.
Republican Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker asked Holbrooke, “We are asking you to tell us what you’re going to do with this money after we pass the bill... For us to pass a large amount of funding and yet then ask later for you to tell us what you’re going to do with it to me seems backwards.”
Corker said, “I think we are potentially embarking on a monumental mistake, whether we end up doing the right things or not, by this body not discussing this in the way that it should and being fully bought into something that I think is going to be a part of our country’s efforts for years to come, especially since we are, in fact, doubling down, if you will, in Afghanistan.”