WASHINGTON - A US Senate panel voted cuts in aid to Pakistan on Tuesday and threatened to withhold even more cash if Islamabad does not reopen its supply routes for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, reflecting American frustration over a months-long standoff.
The Senate panel voted to cut aid to Pakistan by 58 percent in fiscal 2013 from the request by the administration of President Barack Obama, said the panel’s chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, who like Obama is a Democrat.
The panel also slashed the Obama administration’s request for spending on aid to Afghanistan by 28 percent and for Iraq by a whopping 78 percent, including the police programme.
The senators voted $1 billion for Pakistan, including $800 million in foreign aid. However, funding for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund was limited to just $50 million, and that money was tied to the supply lines’ reopening, said Senator Lindsey Graham, the panel’s top Republican.
“We’re not going to be giving money to an ally that won’t be an ally,” Graham told reporters.
The counterinsurgency fund was established several years ago to help train and equip Pakistan’s military.
The panel’s spending blueprint must still be approved by the full Senate and the House of Representatives before it can become law. But criticism of Pakistan in Congress and demands for a complete aid cutoff have been growing, especially after Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US forces in a Pakistani city a little more than a year ago. Pakistan has been a recipient of intermittent US aid in recent years. The US owes Pakistan a fair amount under the Coalition Support Fund, one of the factors affecting bilateral ties.