Washington: US President Barack Obama has signed a USD 1.1 trillion spending bill that puts conditions on continuation of American aid to Pakistan.
"Goodness gracious, that is a big piece of business. That is a big bill," Obama said as he signed the bill yesterday that funds the federal government through the end of September.
The 1,582-page bill passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate requires a certification from the Secretary of State and the Defence Secretary that Pakistan is co-operating with the US in counterterrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e- Mohammed, al-Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations.
It also includes Pakistan taking steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating them on its soil, and carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.
Further, the Congress has also withheld USD 33 million assistance until Pakistan releases Shakil Afridi from prison and is cleared of all charges relating to the assistance provided to the US in locating slain terrorist Osama bin Laden.
As per the bill, the Secretary of State also requires to certify the Congress that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against the US or coalition forces in Afghanistan and expertise and Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan.
The Secretary of State is authorised to suspend assistance if Pakistan fails to make measurable progress in meeting such goals or benchmarks, the bill says.
The Congress also seeks from the Obama Administration a spending plan including achievable and sustainable goals, benchmarks for measuring progress, and expected results regarding combating poverty and furthering development in Pakistan, countering extremism, and establishing conditions conducive to the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance.
Taking about the American economy which faced a total shutdown last year, Obama said the US has made remarkable progress over the last five years, but we have not made enough.
"Obviously, over the last several years, we've been dealing with the need to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression..." he said.
"Not only did that slow our ability to generate a full recovery, and not only did that hamper economic growth, but it also had an enormous impact on all of you," he said.
First Published: Saturday, January 18, 2014, 15:14