Washington, Jan.18 : The US Congress has passed its first legislation for the year 2008 by condemning the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto amid a call for a shift in US policy towards Islamabad.
"What is clear is that before Pakistan devolves any further in chaos and violence, US policy has to change," Democratic lawmaker Gary Ackerman was quoted by the Daily Times as saying.
Ackerman said, "The United States is at a crossroads with Pakistan. It is clear that despite the deaths of many, many Pakistani soldiers and police, the fight against terrorism has not gone the way we would have hoped. It is equally clear that Pakistan is no closer to genuine democracy and arguably a good bit further away. It's time to change course and build a new and different relationship with Pakistan."
Ackerman who heads the House subcommittee of the Middle East and South Asia, said, "We have for too long provided the military with the bulk of our assistance and neglected assistance aimed at building and strengthening democratic institutions. I am not suggesting that we cut all military assistance, it is clear that we need to help Pakistan acquire the capabilities, by the way, that Pakistani officials tell me they need. But when I see them using their national funds to purchase F-16s of anti-submarine surveillance planes, I can't help but wonder whether they don't have an enemy other than terrorism in mind. The United States needs to be clear that our first, second and third priorities will focus on counter-insurgency equipment and training, whether we are using FMF or authorising commercial sales, that provides the Pakistanis with the counter-terrorism capabilities."
Condemning Benazir's December 27 assassination in the strongest possible terms, the resolution was approved by a vote of 413 to 0 in the House of Representatives.
The House resolution reaffirmed Washington's commitment to help Islamabad battle terrorism and promote democracy.
It also backed efforts to "expeditiously bring to justice" those behind Benazir's assassination.
During the House hearing, Ashley J Tellis, a South Asian expert
at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal was safe.