In a significant move, the US Congress has said that $400 million in aid to Pakistan cannot be released unless the defence secretary certifies that Islamabad is “taking demonstrable” steps against the Haqqani network, which is accused of targeting American interests.
Passed by the Senate by 92 to 7 votes yesterday, the 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) in facts imposes four conditions on Pakistan to be eligible for $ 400 million of the $ 900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).
Passed by the US House of Representatives (by 375 to 34 votes) last week, NDAA 2017 now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
As per NDAA-2017, the defence secretary needs to certify to the Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani network in Pakistan and that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the group from using its territory.
The defence secretary also needs to certify that Pakistan actively coordinates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants, such as the Haqqani network, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; and finally that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani network senior leaders and mid-level operatives.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had refused to give a similar certification to Pakistan this year as a result of which Islamabad was not given a $ 300 million under CSF.
The Haqqani network has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan. The group is also blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.
NDAA-2017 “refocuses security assistance to Pakistan on activities that directly support US national security interests and conditions a significant portion of funding on a certification from the secretary of defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistani territory,” said Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
NDAA allows for reimbursement of Pakistan for security activities along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, including providing training and equipment for the Pakistan Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, members of the Conference Committee expressed concern that Pakistan continues to delay or deny visas for US personnel that could assist with the provision of such training. Given this situation, the report recommends the Pentagon to condition reimbursements for training and equipment with appropriate access by US personnel.
It also expressed concern about the persecution of groups seeking political or religious freedom in Pakistan, including the Balochi, Sindhi and Hazara ethnic groups, as well as religious groups, including Christian, Hindu and Ahmadiyyas.
It said the defense secretary should continue to closely monitor the provision of its security assistance to Pakistan and ensure that it is not using its military or any assistance provided by the US to persecute minority groups.