Obama gets bill to triple level of aid to Pakistan

By Jim Abrams
Associated Press / October 1, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Legislation to triple aid to Pakistan in hopes of stemming the tide of radicalism and anti-Americanism in that nation cleared Congress yesterday and moved to President Obama for his signature.

The bill, approved by a voice vote in the House, would provide Pakistan with $1.5 billion a year over the next five years. The Senate passed the bill last week.

The aid would be focused on democratic, economic, and social development programs.

“The United States has an enormous stake in the security and stability of Pakistan,’’ said Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We need to forge a true strategic partnership with Pakistan and its people, strengthen Pakistan’s democratic government, and work to make Pakistan a source of stability in a volatile region.’’

The final bill was crafted by Berman, a California Democrat, in cooperation with the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, and Dick Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican. It was endorsed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The goal of the aid program is to strengthen Pakistan’s legislative and judicial systems; its public education system, emphasizing access for women and girls; its health care system; and its human rights practices.

The legislation also authorizes military assistance to Pakistan, while setting several conditions on that aid. Those include certification that Pakistan is cooperating in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and that it is making a sustained commitment to combating terrorist groups.