The US Congressional conference committee has sought to condition a significant portion of American funding to Pakistan on a Pentagon certification that the country is taking demonstrable steps against the dreaded Haqqani Network in its territory.
In another significant move, the committee has asked the Pentagon to ensure that Pakistan does not use its military aid in persecution of minority groups like Baloch, Sindhis and Hazaras.
The National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2017 passed yesterday by a Congressional Conference Committee authorises up to USD 900 million in coalition support funds for Pakistan.
Of this amount, USD 400 million has been made contingent upon a certification from Defence Secretary that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistani territory.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter refused to give a similar certification to Pakistan this year as a result of which it was not given a USD 300 million under coalition support fund.
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.
The voluminous conference report (running into more than 3000 pages) on USD 618 billion National Defence Authorisation Bill remains concerned 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 Ahmadiyya Muslims.
The conferees - comprising of members of the House of Representative and the Senate - believe that Secretary of Defence should continue to closely monitor the provision of US security assistance to Pakistan and ensure that it is not using its military or any assistance provided by the US to persecute minority groups, the report said.
The 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 recommend the Pentagon to condition reimbursements for training and equipment with appropriate access by US personnel.
It now needs to be formally passed by the two chambers of the Congress - the House of Representatives and Senate - before US President Barack Obama can sign it into law.
In conditioning USD 400 million of its coalition support fund assistance to Pakistan, the conference committee entered into a comprise between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate bill contained a provision that would provide the Secretary of Defence the authority to reimburse Pakistan up to USD 800 million in fiscal year 2017 for certain activities that enhance the security situation in the northwest regions of Pakistan and along the Afghanistan- Pakistan border. The provision would also make USD 300 million of this amount contingent upon a certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistan. The figure in the House version was USD 900 million and USD 450 million respectively. The final version of NDAA, however, did not carry the House provision that sought to establish findings and a sense of Congress regarding the continued detention of Shakil Afridi by the Pakistani government. The conferees noted that contributions of Afridi to efforts to locate Osama bin Laden remain and are expressed concern about Afridi's continuing incarceration.
They urged Pakistan to release him immediately. The US State Department designated the Haqqani network as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in September 2012. The outfit has planned and carried out a number of significant kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan government and civilian targets. 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. In June last year, Afghanistan's intelligence agency arrested a group of Haqqani network militants who plotted terror attack from Pakistan on a popular guest house in Kabul that killed 14 people, including four Indians. The terrorists had attacked the guest house thinking Indian Ambassador Amar Sinha was present in the compound.