Washington: Ignoring objections of the White House, the Republican majority House of Representatives has approved the National Defense Authorisation Act which blocks $450 million aid to Pakistan for failing to take action against the dreaded Haqqani network.
The NDAA 2017 (H R 4909) was passed by the US House of Representative (277-147) on Wednesday night, which among others included approval of three major amendments reflecting the strong anti-Pak sentiment prevailing among the US lawmakers.
As a result, as per the House version of the Bill, the Obama administration must certify that Pakistan has met before releasing $450 million in aid.
“Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani network senior leaders and mid-level operatives”.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s amendment adds an additional requirement that the secretary of defense certify to Congress that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the US to persecute minority groups seeking political or religious freedom.
The NDAA-2017 also includes the sense of the Congress that Shakil Afridi is an international hero and that the government of Pakistan should release him immediately from prison.
NDAA-2017 now needs to be passed by the Senate, before it can be sent to the White House for the US President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
Early this week, the White House had expressed strong objections to several provisions of the bill, including the one related to $450 million in aid to Pakistan.
“The administration objects to section 1212 (of HR 4919), which would make USD 450 million of CSF (Coalition Support Fund) to Pakistan ineligible for the Secretary of Defense’s waiver authority unless the Secretary provides a certification to the Congressional defense committees,” the White House said in its statement.
“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.
However, Congressman Mark Thornberry, chairman of the house foreign affairs committee late Wednesday night decided to ignore the White House’s objection to this and asked the members of the House to approve these amendments in block, for which no voting took place.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Congressman Ted Poe Last year, alleged that the Haqqani Network and the Taliban killed more Afghan civilians and troops than in any other year since the Taliban was toppled in 2001.
“My amendment adds a fourth condition on the aid to Pakistan. This new condition requires the administration to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network senior leaders and mid-level operatives,” he said.
“This forces Pakistan to make a choice: either go after the Haqqani Network in a public way that it has never done before or lose hundreds of millions of dollars of US aid,” Poe said.
The amendment moved by Rohrabacher makes it mandatory for the administration to certify that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the United States to persecute minority groups “seeking political or religious freedom,” including the Balochi, Sindhi, and Hazara ethnic groups and minority religious groups, including Christian, Hindu, and Ahmadiyya Muslim.
“It is time to end this irrational support that we give to Pakistan,” Rohrabacher demanded on the floor of the House arguing that the US has given more than $30 billion in aid since 2002.
“It is only prudent that we increase certification required to release American military or economic aid to Pakistan,” he said.
“It behooves us not to finance Pakistan’s brutal suppression of ethnic groups and religious minorities like the Baloch and the Sindhis who are under attack today simply for seeking their political and religious freedom,” he said.
“I would ask my colleagues to join with me and to stand also with the people around the world. Send a message: If you stand with the US, we will not forget you; we will stand with you.
The people of the US and the US Congress stand tall with you and appreciate that youhave risked your lives in a way that saved American lives,” Rohrabacher said.