John Kerry Plans Legislation to Give $15 Billion in Aid to Pakistan

By Penny Starr | April 14, 2009 | 6:56 PM EDT

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is planning to introduce a bill as early as next week proposing $15 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next 10 years. ( Starr)

( – Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, plans to introduce legislation as early as next week that would give Pakistan $15 billion in non-military aid over the next 10 years, according to committee staff.
The bill’s genesis is legislation proposed by then-committee Chairman and now-Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in the 110th Congress. The Biden-Lugar bill proposed giving Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years ($1.5 billion a year) and an additional $7.5 billion over the following five years.
Although the details of the Kerry-Lugar bill are still being drafted, committee staff told that it will closely resemble the Biden-Lugar legislation, which cited anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani people as an obstacle to routing al Qaeda and Taliban militants from the country’s tribal region.
“A critical mass of Pakistanis regard America as a greater threat than Al Qaeda,” the draft of the Biden-Lugar bill states. “Without changing this baseline, there is little likelihood of drying up popular tolerance for anti-U.S. terrorist groups, or persuading any Pakistani regime to devote the political capital necessary to deny such groups sanctuary and covert material support.”
The Biden-Lugar bill said the non-military aid would build a relationship with the Pakistani people by providing money to improve the “secular” education system, build clinics, drill wells and reform the Pakistani police.
The bill also asked for congressional oversight of the distribution of the non-military aid to ensure the money is used for its intended purpose.
When asked by if the Kerry-Lugar bill will include the same military conditions or benchmarks that call for the U.S. State Department to certify that the Pakistani security forces are fighting to stop al Qaeda and the Taliban from operating in Pakistan, Frederick Jones, the Senate committee’s communications director, said details of the bill are still being worked out but that Kerry was committed to non-military aid.
“There will be benchmarks attached in terms of distribution of the non-military aid,” Jones said. “But the parameters of those benchmarks are still being discussed.”
Last year, the Biden-Lugar version of the bill was opposed by several Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who objected because – as Congressional Quarterly reported – he was convinced that “much of the aid the United States already sends to Pakistan is wasted, noting that the Government Accountability Office found that the oversight of Pakistan military aid is a bit sloppy.”
“We need to determine if the money we are already spending is making a difference before we spend more money we don’t have,” Coburn spokesman John Hart told CQ. “If we’re not careful, we may end up spending taxpayer dollars to bail out warlords rather than building civil society.”
The State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report on Pakistan details ongoing human rights abuses in the country, including the “targeted killings of political dissidents” and the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of police.
The report sites more than 1,000 cases of torture by police between January and June 2008, including beatings with batons and whips, electric shock, hanging upside down and the forced spreading of legs with bar fetters.
It also reports that honor killings and mutilation of women occurred “throughout the country” during the year and that although slavery is against the law in Pakistan, approximately 2 million people were victims of “bonded labor.”
In a statement following a meeting in February between U.S. officials and foreign ministers, the military, and intelligence leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan, President Asif Ali Zadari said Pakistan is “steadfast against terror.”
“We have not and will not negotiate with extremist Taliban and terrorists,” Zadari said. “The clerics with whom we have engaged are not Taliban. Indeed, in our dialogue we’d made it clear that it is their responsibility to rein in and neutralize Taliban and other insurgents.”