US Senate Committee approves $960mn for Pakistan in 2015; lauds improvement in US-Pak ties

WASHINGTON: The US Senate Committee on Appropriations has approved around $960 million in assistance allocation for Pakistan in the 2015 fiscal year, as the powerful panel acknowledged improved relations between two countries since last year’s elections and urged sustained commitment to common goals.

“The Committee recognizes an improvement in bilateral relations following elections in Pakistan, and encourages continued commitment to shared security and development goals,” the panel says in the fiscal year 2015 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Bill that provides $48.285 billion to the State Department.

In another development on the Capitol Hill, the US House of Representatives Friday dismissed a move by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to halt assistance for Pakistan. The Republican legislator from California was seeking an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to stop US support for Pakistan.

In its measure for the State Department expenditures, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommends up to $ 816 million for assistance programmes in Pakistan and directs that assistance in Pakistan target unemployment, illiteracy, and disenfranchisement among the most impoverished communities. The US financial year starts on October 1 each year.

The committee’s approval of a total of $959.7 million for Pakistan is $65.8 million less than the Obama Administration’s request of $1.03 billion, while for Afghanistan the approved amount of $1.9 billion is $700 million below the US president’s request of $2.6 billion.

Of the $ 1.9 billion appropriated amount for Afghanistan, the measure provides up to $961.4 million for assistance programmes in that country amid transition and reduction in American footprint.

While approving allocation for Pakistan, the Committee recognizes Malala Yousafzai’s courageous advocacy for girls’ education.

The Appropriation Act provides $3,000,000, in addition to funds otherwise available for such purposes, to increase the number of scholarships under the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Programme. “Not less than 50 percent of the scholarships should be awarded to Pakistani women,” it says.

The bill increases funding for polio prevention programmes to $59 million, including $7.5 million in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to support a multilateral campaign to eliminate the disease, which is $9 million above President Obama’s request.