Washington, DC – The House today approved bipartisan legislation increasing assistance to Pakistan, moving a step forward to create a new, more positive framework for U.S.-Pakistan relations.
“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,” said Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This legislation helps to lay the foundation for a stronger, more stable Pakistan.”
The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act (HR 1886), which passed by a vote of 234 to 185, triples U.S. democratic, economic, and social development assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, with a particular focus on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting economic development and improving Pakistan's public education system, with an emphasis on access for women and girls. The bill also establishes a permanent Pakistan Democracy and Prosperity Fund for most non-military assistance, demonstrating America’s long-term commitment to Pakistan’s democratic future.
To ensure that U.S. assistance is truly benefiting the people of Pakistan, the legislation requires rigorous oversight and auditing. It establishes a set of principles that should govern U.S.-Pakistan ties, including the actions that the two countries should take together to maintain a robust, relevant and lasting relationship. For example, the bill explains that U.S. assistance is intended to supplement, not supplant, Pakistan’s own efforts to establish stability and lasting security, and that U.S. assistance will be wholly ineffective without Pakistan’s own serious efforts to improve the lives of its citizens.
H.R. 1886 authorizes military assistance to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat al Qaeda and insurgent elements, and requires that the vast majority of such assistance be focused on critical counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts. In addition, the bill requires that all military assistance flow through the democratically elected Government of Pakistan. Finally, the legislation includes accountability measures for military assistance, including a requirement that the Government of Pakistan has demonstrated a sustained commitment to combating terrorist groups and has made progress towards that end.
“We fully appreciate the urgency of the situation in Pakistan, and the need for appropriate flexibility,” Berman said. “We are simply asking Pakistan to follow through with the commitments it has already made. And in the process, we lay down an important marker that Congress will no longer provide a ‘blank check.’ “
The bill also creates Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which textiles and other goods could be produced for duty-free export to the United States. The ROZs are meant to help counteract al-Qaeda and Taliban recruitment efforts by creating work opportunities that would offer alternatives to joining the insurgency.