Nirupama Subramanian

Failure to usher in sufficient democratic reforms cited Pakistan faces cut in U.S. aid

ISLAMABAD: Facing a cutback in financial aid from the United States for cited failure to usher in sufficient democratic reforms, Pakistan has denied the $250 million reduction was aimed at it specifically.

Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said there was an overall cut in U.S. budgetary allocations, and "as a consequence there will be some impact on the annual allocation for Pakistan."

Pakistan's allocation has dropped to $300 million from the proposed $550 million for the fiscal year 2007, reports here said.

Ms. Aslam said last year too there was a cut in the U.S. budgetary allocation but the reduction was compensated by subsequent allocations.

The Nation reported that the appropriations bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Friday also cuts Foreign Military Financing Funds for Pakistan in 2007 from the current $300 million to $200 million.

The bill reportedly cites the "increasing lack of respect for human rights, especially women's rights, and the lack of progress for improving democratic governance and the rule of law" as the main reason for cutting aid to Pakistan.

The newspaper quoted Ms. Aslam saying it was "baseless" to ascribe the reduction to Pakistan's human rights record.

The U.S. gave Pakistan nearly $3 billion in foreign aid assistance between 2001 and 2005. Last year, U.S. President George Bush announced a $ 3 billion assistance package for his frontline ally in the war on terror. Spread over five years, the amount was to be split equally between Pakistan's defence and social sectors.