Sen Obama Urges Rigorous Review of U.S. Assistance to Pakistan

Calls for Senate Appropriations Committee to suspend targeted assistance in light of state of emergency declaration

WASHINGTON , D.C. – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today wrote to Senator Robert Byrd, Chairman and Senator Thad Cochran, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, urging Congress to set conditions on U.S. assistance to Pakistanin light of President Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency this weekend.

The Senate and House are currently negotiating the FY08 State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which includes some of the U.S. aid to Pakistan. In the letter, Obama asks the Committee to continue funding for Pakistan in the Foreign Operations bill in the areas of counter-terrorism funding, public education, health, micro-enterprise development, humanitarian assistance, and democracy and rule of law programs, but temporarily suspend all other funding for Pakistan in the Foreign Operations bill until the Administration certifies that: 1) U.S. funds are not being used to repress democracy in Pakistan; 2) parliamentary elections have been scheduled, media restrictions have been lifted, and those people imprisoned because of the state of emergency have been released; and 3) the Pakistani government has developed a strategy to combat Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

Below is a copy of the letter:

November 8, 2007

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd

Chairman

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations

S-131, The Capitol

Washington , DC 20510

Dear Chairman Byrd and Senator Cochran:

I am writing regarding the troubling news from Pakistan over the weekend that President Musharraf has declared a state of emergency and has engaged in widespread and illegal arrests and other measures.

Pakistan is an important ally to the United States, and for this reason, I have been proud to support significant investments in its stability and economic development over the last several years. At the same time, however, the developments over the weekend raise very serious concerns about President Musharraf's commitment to return Pakistan to a democratic path.

In reaction to this news from Pakistan, Secretary Rice has pledged to review U.S.assistance to Pakistan. As you know, in the context of the programs funded by the State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill, the Administration requested roughly $845 million dollars in the regular and supplemental appropriations for FY '08. I agree that a wholesale review of U.S.assistance to Pakistan is warranted in light of these recent events, but I am not confident the Administration will conduct the thorough review this situation demands, and I believe aggressive Congressional oversight of this review is vital.

As such, I am requesting that you use the Senate-House conference on the Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which includes foreign military financing, bilateral economic assistance, democracy assistance, and development assistance for Pakistan, to make sure that U.S. taxpayer investments in Pakistan are making clear our strong support for the Pakistani people and are advancing our interests in democracy and the fight against Taliban and al Qaeda extremists in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I would request, specifically, that the Committee continue funding for Pakistan in the Foreign Operations bill in the areas of counter-terrorism funding, public education, health, micro-enterprise development, humanitarian assistance, and democracy and rule of law programs, and temporarily suspend all other funding for Pakistan in the Foreign Operations bill until such time as the Administration certifies that its review of assistance is complete and certifies further that:

1) None of our assistance is being used to repress the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan;

2) Parliamentary elections have been scheduled, restrictions on the media imposed as a result of the state of emergency have been lifted, and those imprisoned or placed under house arrest as a result of state of emergency have been freed; and

3) The Government of Pakistan has developed a comprehensive strategy to root out Taliban and al Qaeda forces in northwest Pakistan.

I thank you in advance for the consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

United States Senator

cc:

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Chairman

The Honorable Judd Gregg

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs