Washington, May 4: US lawmakers stepped up demands to freeze American aid to Pakistan with one of them even announcing a plan to introduce a legislation but the Obama Administration said it will continue to provide financial assistance.
Congressman Ted Poe from Texas, who is proposing the legislation, said the aid should be barred till Pakistan demonstrated it had no inkling of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, observing “Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do.”
The Pakistan Foreign Aid Accountability Act would require the US State Department to certify to Congress that Pakistan was not providing a sanctuary for the world's most wanted terrorist. Since the 2001 terrorist attack, the US Government has provided an estimated USD 20 billion of assistance to Pakistan.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner justified continuance of aid to Pakistan notwithstanding strains in ties with Pakistan over the Osama issue, pointing out that the country was still facing the scourge of terrorism.
“I think our view is that this (aid) has paid dividends and will continue to pay dividends. This is assistance that is in both Pakistan's long-term interest as well as the United States' national interests and security interests,” Toner told reporters.
“We're continuing to work with them. We, again, may not see eye to eye on how to approach every issue, but we're going to continue to work with Pakistan and we believe it's in the best interest of our nation to do so,” Toner said.
Acknowledging that the killing of bin Laden has raised questions, Toner said at this point of time US aid would continue.
“Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do. It seems unimaginable that Osama bin Laden was living 1,000 yards away from a military base in a million dollar mansion built especially for him and no one in the Pakistani government knew about it. I don't buy it,” Poe said.
Peter T King, a top New York Congressman said, “...the relationship now has changed. They(Pakistan) are at a crossroads. And you can't be coming to Congress and asking for USD 3 billion after this, after what happened, and expect to get it without serious, serious questions being asked and the relationship being reanalysed,”
His steps came as a anti-Pakistan mood prevailed on the Capitol Hill with a significantly large number of Congressmen and Senators believing that the Monday's special forces operation in Abbottabad had exposed the double game of the Pakistani government.
They now want White House to adopt a tough approach against Islamabad saying that over the years Pakistan has become the nerve centre of terrorism.
Allen West, a first time Congressman from Florida has urged his colleagues to end all US aid to Pakistan arguing that it is impossible to believe that the al-Qaeda chief was hiding so close to Islamabad without any support infrastructure.
“As you begin to prepare the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012, I hope the Subcommittee will look into these very important issues and make a determination to end all foreign aid to the Government of Pakistan,” West said in a letter to Kay Granger, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on State.
I served in Afghanistan for 2 ½ years and familiar with the sanctuary being provided to Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. Many believe the central headquarters of the Taliban, and Mullah Omar, are located in Quetta, Pakistan,” he said.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “It does cause one to question how this kind of facility(Obama's mansion which stood out, was close by a military academy, could exist for the length of time it did exist.
And we now know that bin Laden was there up to six years.”
“That's a substantial period of time when trash is burned rather than picked up by sanitation authorities. It was noted that there was no electronic access, and yet it was a sophisticated facility. So questions had to have been asked, I would think,” Feinstein said.
West asked,” What real assistance was the Pakistan Government providing for the last 10 years to locate the al-Qaeda leader and bring him to justice?”
“Since the September 11th terrorist attack, the United States Government has provided an estimated USD 20 billion of assistance to the Government of Pakistan.
Questions are arising on whether the Government of Pakistan may have aided and abetted this most wanted international terrorist,” he said.
“I think it is quite clear that unless we get a clear explanation of what the Government of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, all foreign aid from American taxpayers to this nation needs to cease.
Further, did the Government of Pakistan always know where this terrorist was but instead did not want to bring him to justice in order to continue to receive foreign aid from the United States of America,” West added. PTI