WASHINGTON - Hectic lobbying by Pakistani diplomats, headed by Ambassador Sherry Rehman, led to the collapse of a move by an American Senator seeking cut off of US aid to Pakistan.
Senator Ran Paul, a Republican, sought to attach an amendment to a pending farm bill but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, stalled the move even though Washington-Islamabad tensions remain high, making it difficult to lobby for Pakistan on Capitol Hill.
The amendment would have defunded US aid to Pakistan until the country released Dr Shakil Afridi who helped CIA in tracking down Osama bin Laden.
Reid asked for unanimous consent on Tuesday to consider a batch of five amendments to the farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 , but Paul objected, arguing that his amendment on withholding aid to Pakistan should also be included.
In response, Reid used a procedural move called “filling the tree,” or taking up all the amendment space, to keep Paul’s amendment from being considered.
During the past two weeks, Ambassador Sherry Rehman met American lawmakers on the Hill as relations between the two countries remain soured in the backdrop of a spate of unilateral American actions and allegations and Pakistan’s refusal to restore NATO supply lines.
The Pakistani diplomats thanked all those who assisted behind-the-scenes in getting this important amendment blocked.
A Senate aide, who had been working closely with the Embassy, said: “It is important to note that after July, when the election campaign goes into full gear, many more such amendments are expected, and will be practically impossible to block or defeat once they get tacked on to foreign assistance clauses. Despite what we or the Embassy says here, the mood against Pakistan is getting very negative over the last seven months. Right now, we were able to help Pakistan because the amendments could be knocked out for technical clauses, and Ambassador Sherry Rehman has left no stone unturned there.”