The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, less than a week after the Senate approved a similar measure to give the South Asian nation $1.5 billion a year over the next five years for democratic, economic and social development assistance.
The measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The Senate bill, by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Richard Lugar (R-IN), is aimed at turning U.S.-Pakistan relations to one based on long-term interests. That measure passed last Thursday.
Pakistan is seen as a key factor in the U.S. military strategy in neighboring Afghanistan. In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel on Tuesday, Kerry said al-Qaida's presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan's stability were principal security concerns of the U.S.
The congressional measure, however, is being criticized in Pakistan because the aid is conditional. It requires the U.S. secretary of state to certify every six months that Pakistan is continuing its effort in trying to defeat and dismantle al-Qaida, the Taliban and other similar groups; that it closes terrorist camps; and that it prevents attacks into neighboring countries by extremist and terrorist groups.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., tells Siegel that though the $7.5 billion over five years shows the U.S. commitment to Pakistan, "too much conditionality is never good, because it reflects suspicion." Haqqani says, however, that he understands both Congress' concerns and those of his compatriots.
"Once we have built the relationship of trust that we're seeking to build between the United States and Pakistan, many of these concerns on both sides will go away," he says.
The ambassador says that while he understands concerns over the presence and activity of militant groups on Pakistani soil, "rooting them out will take time. We will eliminate them; it's just that it won't happen overnight."
Haqqani says that over the years, the country's intelligence and military have been overstretched. But he notes that over the past 14 months, more militants have been killed and apprehended in Pakistan than during the preceding seven years.
"It's a multidimensional challenge. Of course there's a military component. Of course there's a police component, and there's an intelligence component," he says. "But it's also a question of making sure that young people in Pakistan do not become recruits to extremist ideology."