After the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill. By Talib Lashari

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The ongoing militant attacks against Pakistan's civilians, law enforcement and military signal the need not only for increased security in the country but also for addressing the underlying problems that lead to extremism, such as poverty, illiteracy, joblessness and lack of education. It is these problems that the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill was meant to help alleviate, in cooperation with the Pakistani government, by giving Pakistan $7.5 billion in non-military aid over the next five years.
At first, the many conditions attached to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill, as well as the stringent US oversight of the aid monies, angered many Pakistanis. The controversy brought into the spotlight the need for a shift in the body politic in Pakistan from a conservative and irresponsible mindset to a responsible, progressive and democratic one, so the country can achieve political stability and significant socio-economic growth.
After US President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on 15 October, the bill was regarded with suspicion amongst Pakistan's conservative media and politicians because of certain clauses that allegedly raised concerns for the country's sovereignty. Despite the bill tripling the amount of aid given to Pakistan each year, furore amongst Pakistanis–aimed at the United States–was at an all-time high.
A few days prior to the bill's ratification, Senators Richard Lugar and John Kerry clarified that "nothing in this Act in any way suggests that there should be any US role in micromanaging internal Pakistani affairs, including the … internal operations of the Pakistani military." This statement was made upon request by the Pakistani government to allay fears and address the concerns raised by the public, the military and opposition parties.
The debate was initially triggered on 2 October in the Pakistani Senate when Wasim Sajjad, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a party formed by former President Pervez Musharraf, said, "This (bill) is a direct attack on Pakistan's dignity, honour and sovereignty." Choudhry Nisar Ali Khan, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (party of Nawaz Sharif), voiced similar concerns.
The most astonishing criticism, however, came from the military. The Corps Commanders held a meeting on 7 October and expressed their concerns about the bill to the media–a rare act.
Their main concerns related to Section 203 on "Limitation on Certain Assistance" and Section 302 on "Monitoring Reports". The former section requires US access to relevant information on, and direct access to, Pakistani nationals involved in nuclear supplier networks; ceasing support for extremist elements within army and intelligence agencies; and no involvement of security forces in subverting Pakistani political or judicial processes.
Section 302 requires a semi-annual report by the US Secretary of State to be submitted to Congress accounting for the funds spent in the previous six months. It forbids the proliferation of nuclear-related material or the sharing of expertise on nuclear weapons with non-Pakistanis. The bill promotes effective civilian leadership and parliament's management of the military's chain of command, including the promotion of senior military leaders.
The bill is the biggest aid package Pakistan's social sector has ever received. It would provide assistance for establishing sustainable democratic institutions as well as aid for education, public health, fighting drug trafficking, human rights, independent media, rural development labour rights, microfinance, internally displaced persons, and even exchange activities like the Fulbright programme.
The bill comes with certain conditions that are binding for matters related to security, but not within the social sector. It states that extensive monitoring and reporting will be necessary while implementing each tranche to ensure that the funds are being efficiently utilised.
With Obama having signed the bill, Pakistan now has a better chance of getting additional international aid through the newly formed consortium "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" (FODP). This group was formed in September 2008 and is comprised of memberships from developed countries that are willing to provide political and strategic support to Pakistan for socio-economic development and for combating terrorism.
Ultimately, the furore over the bill worked in its favour–and to Pakistan's benefit–as there will be a greater degree of accountability in making sure the aid money is correctly allocated to the areas that require it. Having the United States invest in Pakistan's socio-economic growth will in all likelihood also invite broader international support, from the FODP in particular.
By sincerely working towards spending the aid money correctly and responsibly, and through subsequent development, Pakistan can restore its image as a responsible, democratic and progressive country, well respected in the league of nations.

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* Talib Lashari is a political analyst based in Islamabad. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 1 December 2009, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

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