US note dilutes some conditions in Kerry-Lugar bill

WASHINGTON: The requirement for an effective civilian control over promotions and strategic planning in the Pakistani military is not mentioned in a new joint explanatory statement of the US Congress issued on Wednesday.

‘There is no intent to, and nothing in this act in any way suggests that there should be, any US role in micromanaging internal Pakistani affairs, including the promotion of Pakistani military officers or the internal operations of the Pakistani military,’ said an explanatory note attached to the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009.

The explanatory note also dilutes the requirement that needed Pakistan to interrogate any Pakistani national involved in nuclear proliferation and to allow US officials access to such a person.

A new clause included in the explanatory note now ‘reflects our understanding that cooperative effort currently being undertaken by the governments of Pakistan and the United States to combat proliferation will continue.’

Section 302 of the act Congress passed late last month required the Secretary of State to submit annual reports to appropriate congressional committees to justify the continuation of security and military assistance to Pakistan. A failure to issue such a report could cause the aid to be discontinued.

There’s no such requirement for economic assistance. The secretary’s report shall include an assessment of the extent to which the Pakistan government exercises effective civilian control of the military.

This report should also include ‘a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration,’ said the original document.

Pakistani diplomats, however, explained to the media on Wednesday that while the above clause could not be deleted from the bill, the explanatory statement would make it ineffective. The administration will no longer be asked to issue such a report.

Missing from the explanatory note are words like ‘civilian executive leaders and parliament’ exercising the power of ‘oversight and approval’ and the requirement that the military will not get involved in civil administration.

The explanatory note also states that even the remaining requirement can be ‘waived if the determination is made by the Secretary of State in the interest of (US) national security that this was necessary to continue’ military assistance to Pakistan.

Interestingly, the requirement for ‘effective civilian control’ over the military was also absent from the original Senate version of the Kerry-Lugar bill.

The earlier bill said that the US intended to work with the government of Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan had strong and effective law-enforcement and national defence forces, under civilian leadership, with sufficient and appropriate security equipment and training to effectively defend Pakistan against internal and external threats.

In this clause, there was no mention of civilian control over chain of command or the process of promotion in the Pakistan army or any thing else hair-raising about the armed forces.

The explanatory note was issued jointly by the US House of Representatives and the Senate, clarifying their intent behind the aid to Pakistan bill.

The statement stresses that the US neither seeks to micromanage Pakistani affairs nor impinge on its sovereignty.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, read out part of the statement inside Capitol Hill, standing beside Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

‘This document today is I think a historic document, a step forward in our relationship,’ Qureshi told a joint news conference with Senator Kerry and Congressman Berman.

‘I am going back to Pakistan to tell my parliament and conclude the debate on the note that our relationship can move forward , we will deepen it and we will strengthen it,’ he said.

Senator Kerry and Congressman Berman reaffirmed their resolve to forge a long-term relationship with Pakistan, adding that the legislation, now being called as Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, manifests the American commitment to economic uplift of the Pakistani people.

‘There is nothing in this bill that impinges on Pakistani sovereignty, period,’ said Senator Kerry.

The joint statement says that the reports envisioned in Section 302 are not binding on Pakistan, and require only the provision of information by the executive branch to the US Congress, in furtherance of the proposed legislation’s stated purpose of strengthening civilian institutions and the democratically-elected government of Pakistan.

The final text of the legislation reflects an agreement reached by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

‘The purpose of this explanatory statement is to facilitate accurate interpretation of the text and to ensure faithful implementation of its provisions in accordance with the intentions of the legislation,’ said Senator Kerry.

The core intent of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act is to demonstrate the American people’s long-term commitment to the people of Pakistan, he added.

Senator Kerry and Congressman Berman said that the United States valued its friendship with the Pakistani people and honoured the great sacrifices made by Pakistani security forces in the fight against extremism, and the legislation reflected the goals shared by the two governments.

The joint statement emphasised that the legislation ‘does not seek in any way to compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty, impinge on Pakistan’s national security interests, or micromanage any aspect of Pakistani military or civilian operations’.

There are no conditions on Pakistan attached to the authorisation of $7.5 billion in non-military aid.
The only requirements on this funding are financial accountability measures that Congress is imposing on the US executive branch, to ensure that this assistance supports programmes that most benefit the Pakistani people.

President Barack Obama has till midnight Friday to sign the Kerry-Lugar bill and he will sign it before that, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

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