Pakistan's military concerned over US aid bill
By NAHAL TOOSI (AP) - October 7, 2009
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's powerful military, preparing for a new offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida militants, expressed "serious concern" Wednesday about a proposed multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package some consider an avenue to American meddling.
The military's unusual public statement opens a rift with the weak U.S.-backed civilian administration in Islamabad and bolsters opposition leaders. It also appears intended to show the Pakistani people that their army is not taking orders from Washington.
The aid bill, which awaits President Barack Obama's signature, would provide Pakistan with $1.5 billion a year over the next five years to spend on democratic, economic and social development programs. It also allows "such sums as may be necessary" for military aid, subject to special conditions related to its fight against militants.
U.S. officials say the bill's broad goal is to alleviate widespread poverty among the 175 million Pakistanis, lessening the allure of Taliban and other Islamist extremists who have wreaked havoc in the country and across the border in Afghanistan.
But to many here, the conditions attached to the aid are a sign of growing, and unwanted, U.S. influence in Pakistan. The worries are burnished by a media-fueled backlash over U.S. plans to add hundreds more embassy staff in Islamabad. American officials say the staff are needed to disburse and monitor the aid.
"The question in Pakistani minds is: 'Is so much intrusion worth what we will be getting?'" said Ayaz Amir, a journalist and member of parliament with the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the largest opposition party. "Once we accept the terms of this bill and we start receiving aid under it, already great American influence will grow."
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