Rewarding Pakistan for cooperating with the U.S. campaign against terrorism, President George W. Bush signed a bill on October 27 that grants him the authority to waive for two years prohibitions on major military sales and economic assistance to Pakistan.
Passed by the Senate October 4 and by the House less than two weeks later, the law gives the president the power to waive sanctions if a waiver would help facilitate Pakistan’s transition to democracy and assist U.S. efforts to “respond to, deter, or prevent” acts of international terrorism.
Specifically, the law grants exemptions to sanctions imposed for Pakistan’s October 1999 military coup and for defaulting on U.S. loans. It also removes a 45-day congressional notification requirement before the president can waive sanctions imposed for the transfer or receipt of missile technology.
In September, Bush waived sanctions barring U.S. economic and military assistance that were imposed on Pakistan for its development and testing of nuclear weapons. However, remaining coup and loan sanctions still blocked most of this assistance. (See ACT, October 2001.)
By waiving the coup and loan sanctions, the law frees Pakistan of most U.S. military and all U.S. economic sanctions for the first time since 1990, when Washington levied sanctions against Pakistan for its development of nuclear weapons. Up to that point, Washington had been one of Pakistan’s principal suppliers of military equipment, including F-16 fighters.
Commending Pakistan for making the difficult choice of aligning itself with Washington, in October 16 remarks Representative Doug Bereuter (R-NE), a senior member of both the House Intelligence and International Relations committees, emphasized that the law “provides President Bush with the tools he needs to encourage Pakistan’s continued participation in United States’ efforts to combat terrorism.”
However, Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a longtime supporter of India and a senior member of the International Relations Committee, expressed concern about the impact of the law during a brief October 16 floor debate. Citing “serious reservations” in his support for the law, Ackerman noted that the waiver “opens the door to a significant new arms relationship with Pakistan.”
The congressman also contended that any arms sold to Islamabad by Washington are “likely to be used” against India and held that “the message from this waiver must not be that democracy is no longer important” but rather that “we must continue to urge Pakistan to return to democracy as soon as possible.”