February 21, 2008


Filed under: POST-ELECTIONS 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 11:01 pm
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FEB 22, 2008

Questions being raised about US payments to Pakistan

* WP says suspicions about overbilling have fuelled controversy over issue

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Questions are being raised here, according to a report published on Thursday, about the authenticity of reimbursement claims submitted by the Pakistan government to cover expenses incurred in fighting terrorism.

The payments termed Coalition Support Funds (CSF) are made after a long, intricate and extremely slow process that Pakistan has expressed its unhappiness with at the highest levels of government.

President Pervez Musharraf personally took up the matter with both US Secretary of State Cndoleezza Rice and her deputy John Negroponte.

According to a detailed report carried by the Washington Post on Thursday, every month the Pakistan Defence Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the US embassy in Islamabad, representing the costs of maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the Federally Administrative Tribal Area (FATA).

No receipts are attached. The US embassy goes over the claims – about $80 million a month – submits them to Washington where the papers are examined by several agencies and finally submitted to four congressional oversight bodies, after whose approval, the claims are cleared for payment.

Overbilling: “But vague accounting, disputed expenses and suspicions about overbilling have recently made these payments to Pakistan highly controversial, even within the US government,” says the news report.

In the last six years, Pakistan has received $5.7 billion on this account, which is a piddling sum of money, considering that the US is spending $1 billion a month in Iraq on military operations alone.

The report says the Bush administration has recently begun to scrutinise Pakistan’s bills more closely. Washington delayed payment of about $78 million of $360 million for the March-June 2007 quarter now working its way through the reimbursement process.

Pakistan will receive only $282 million later this month, US officials said, with additional payment once it provides more detailed accounting. It recently rejected a Pakistani bill, officials say, for “roads and tracks” for its Navy operations.

A congressional oversight subcommittee is also set to begin an investigation next month, while the Government Accountability Office plans to finish its own inquiry in April.

There is some unease in Congress as to the use to which the money being paid to Pakistan is being put.

The news report quotes Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell as saying of Pakisan, “They are a sovereign government assisting us rather than someone who works for us. They are an ally. They are acting on our behalf to go after terrorists in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.”


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