US Senators want Pak to get aid after NATO route reopening

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Washington, Jul 11: Top US Senators have opined that Washington should give a $1.1 billion aid to Pakistan after the latter agreed to reopen the NATO supply lines to the war-torn Afghanistan. The US held back the funds, despite the Congress approving it, after Pakistan shut the key supply line following the NATO attack which killed 24 of its soldiers last November at a check-post in Salala, located in Mohmand Agency on the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan's move made it convenient for the NATO to bring in its supplies and had to avail the expensive route via central Asia.

The deteriorating US-Pakistan relation saw a welcome turnaround last week when the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised to Islamabad over the Salala incident. Islamabad, subsequently, decided to reopen the supply lines for the coalition forces led by the US in Afghanistan. The US would disburse the funds for counter-terrorism activities.

However, there are some US officials who are supporting Pakistan a bit reluctantly. Lindsey Graham, one of the Republican members of the Armed Services Committee, said, "If the Pentagon thinks that providing aid to Pakistan will help our war efforts, then it is okay. Pakistan cannot be relied on as an ally. But at the same time, one can not abandon them either. The biggest beneficiary is those who are fighting the war. I want a stable Pakistan and is the money helps it, it is good."

He also asked what leverage would the US have if it decided to discontinue monetary aid to Pakistan. Republican Senator Rand Paul was, however, backing for a vote later this month to stop future funds to Pakistan. The vote depends on how Pakistan would deal with Shakil Afridi, the doctor who had helped the US to track Osama bin Laden. He was convicted and sentenced to 33 years on grounds for treason. Dr Afridi's appeal trial is scheduled on Jul 19.

The Pentagon wants to submit the funds as a reimbursement to the Pakistan government, which is said to have spent the amount on counter-terrorism efforts.

That vote is contingent in part on what Pakistan does in the case of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden but was convicted and sentenced to 33 years for high treason.

Gunmen kill eight people

On Monday early morning, eight people were shot in a Pakistani army camp in the city of Gujrat where several hardline Islamists were spending the night on the way to the national capital to protest the government's decision to reopen the NATO supply line to Afghanistan. Gujrat police chief Basharat Mahmood said they were not sure whether Islamist protesters were involved in the killing.

"We are searching for the culprits," he said, admitting that it was undoubtedly a terrorist attack. Monday's attack took place soon after the leaders of Difah-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), an outfit comprising right-wing politicians and religious leaders opposed to Pakistan's anti-terror alliance with the US, finished addressing their supporters.

About 800 DPC supporters had left Lahore for Islamabad on Sunday in 200 vehicles in a 'long march' and had plans to hold a protest in front of the parliament on Monday. They made a halt at Gujrat the night before. DPC comprises people with militant links like Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the father of the Taliban.

It is learnt that about six armed people came in a car and motorcycles and opened fire in the camp, killing seven soldiers and a policeman who tried to stop them while they were fleeing. Four other policemen and three soldiers were also injured. Police said the camp where the attack took place was set up to carry out search operations to find the body of an army officer who went missing following a helicopter crash into a nearby river.

The DPC, however, are not known to be supporters of the Pakistani Taliban. Many of its leaders even have strong links with the ISI since past and DPC is said to have the support of the army to put pressure on the US as the government negotiated over reopening over the NATO supply route.

OneIndia News

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