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US to provide financial assistance to Pakistan

08 January, 2015

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WASHINGTON: The US State Department has said that it will use a national interest waiver to provide financial assistance to Pakistan later this year.

"A waiver prior to the notification of the funding … allows the department to then notify and obligate those funds, which we'll do this year, but … we haven't done at this point," spokesperson Jen Psaki told a news briefing in Washington.

A waiver implies that it's in US national interest to provide financial assistance to a country, which may not meet all the requirements for receiving US assistance.

Ms Psaki explained that a waiver did not imply that the country was not cooperating with the US in fighting terrorism, "it means that some of the criteria hasn't been met".

The controversy followed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar's meeting with US Ambassador Richard Olson in Islamabad on Dec 29 when the envoy informed Mr Dar that the Obama administration was working on a $532 million civilian aid package for Pakistan.

But hours after the meeting, Pakistani officials issued a statement, saying that the US Congress had approved $532m for Pakistan from the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funds.

The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, passed in 2009, requires the US administration to certify that Pakistan is "cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations".

State Department to use waiver to release funds
When unable to issue a certification, the administration uses a national interest waiver to provide assistance.

Ms Psaki explained that the United States had two options for providing financial assistance to Pakistan: the KLB act and appropriations funding.

The most recent review under the KLB act completed in September 2014 and was based on the fiscal year 2013 appropriation.

For releasing the funds, the US administration needed a certification or a national interest waiver.

Ms Psaki explained that after reviewing the full range of criteria required, the Department of State did not issue a certification, and instead employed the national interest waiver.

She further explained that the United States issued a full certification to Pakistan only once, in fiscal year 2011, stating that Pakistan had met the requirements for doing so.

In 2013, the administration reviewed the certification for the fiscal year 2014 appropriations funding. That review and subsequent waiver were exercised in July 2014.

In terms of total funding, for FY 2013, which only began to come off a congressional hold in September 2014, Congress appropriated approximately $1.2 billion in assistance to Pakistan.

Fiscal year 2014's funding for civilian assistance programmes has not yet been notified but will be done later this year, Ms Psaki explained.

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