In Pakistan, U.S. Aid Package Stirs Anger An emotional debate is under way in Pakistan over a U.S. plan to provide the country with $1.5 billion in economic aid for each of the next five years. Many Pakistanis view the plan, approved by Congress last week, as U.S. interference in their internal affairs.
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In Pakistan, U.S. Aid Package Stirs Anger

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In Pakistan, U.S. Aid Package Stirs Anger

In Pakistan, U.S. Aid Package Stirs Anger

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Debate is raging in Pakistan over billions of dollars of aid the U.S. has promised. Congress approved the package last week. It would provide $1.5 billion each year for the next five years and the conditions that come with that money are not popular in Pakistan. Members of parliament are denouncing the deal as a sellout to the Americans. And today the Pakistani army took the rare step of publicly expressing its disapproval.

From Lahore, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Today's Daily Ausaf, a major Urdu-language newspaper described the assistance provided under the Kerry-Lugar bill as a sweet poison. At sermons during Friday prayers, some clerics assailed the Kerry-Lugar bill as enslavement. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah, an Islamic charity believes to front for the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused in last year's terror attacks in Mumbai, suggested that the Americans were out to control Pakistan's nuclear program, its army and jihadists like him and his followers.

HAFIZ MUHAMMAD SAEED: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: The enemies of God are closely watching us and putting conditions on us, Saeed warned. Remember, these bills are not going to solve our problems but multiply them, he said. For the Americans, it might sound like a case of no good deed going unpunished. The Kerry-Lugar bill seeks to undo what it calls disproportionate emphasis on security-related assistance. In the hope of building mutual trust, the United States has shifted focus to alleviating poverty, building schools and hospitals and deepening democratic and civilian institutions following the nine-year dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf.

But Ahsan Iqbal, spokesman for the largest opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, says while his party appreciates the spirit of what the Obama administration is trying to do, he says, the result is an intrusion of Pakistan's sovereignty and calls certain provisions plainly offensive.

AHSAN IQBAL: The bill very categorically states that Pakistan shall cease to support terrorism and shall cease to indulge in the acts of terrorism. Now that is an indictment.

MCCARTHY: The controversy over Kerry-Lugar has deepened already fierce anti- American feelings in Pakistan, much of them due to resentment over a U.S.-led war on terror that many believe is worsening Pakistan's own security. But Ahsan Iqbal says his opposition party is not interested in stoking anti-Americanism or in destabilizing the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

IQBAL: The choice is whether this friendship is based on equal respect where people perceive this friendship to be in the interest of both countries or it is seen as a one-sided friendship where Pakistan is used as a proxy state in this friendship. That is the choice.

MCCARTHY: Pakistan's top military commanders issued a terse statement expressing serious concerns regarding clauses impacting on national security, unusual public criticism of the U.S. effort. Kerry-Lugar authorizes only such sums as may be necessary for military aid - no specified amount. Defense analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi says an unhappy military could spell trouble for the weak American-allied civilian government of President Zardari.

HASAN: The United States has exposed this government to a lot of internal pressures. And if these pressures are not really dealt with effectively it can get weaker. In fact, it has again provided an opportunity to the military to decide the fate of this government.

MCCARTHY: While Pakistan's powerful military may be signaling the public that it is not taking orders from Washington, the government tried to do the same tonight. Scrambling to diffuse the mounting pressure, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani took to the floor of parliament and attempted to pacify the anger over the Kerry-Lugar bill.

YUSUF RAZA GILANI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: This is not a contract. This is not binding on us. That is for the parliament to decide, Gilani said, adding, today President Obama is listening to the parliament of Pakistan and its objections.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Lahore.

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