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US to give Pakistan $1.5 billion a year - with strings attached

Some Pakistanis, especially in the military, say the conditions violate their country's sovereignty and interfere with the civil-military power balance.

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A new package of US aid to Pakistan – designed to encourage the country's transition from military to civilian rule while dampening public interest in extremist Islam – faces heated criticism for what some Pakistanis see as an effort to dictate the country's path.

Cries of violation of Pakistan's sovereignty have echoed across the capital of Islamabad in recent days. The cries have come as word has spread of the "certification" requirements that Pakistan will have to meet to receive $1.5 billion a year in American assistance over the next five years.

Among the requirements: The secretary of State must certify to the US Congress annually that Pakistan's security forces are cutting ties to extremist organizations and that a democratically elected government "exercises effective civilian control of the military." Specifically, the State Department must report on civilian oversight of the military budget process, military involvement in civilian affairs, and even the nitty-gritty of how senior military officers are promoted.

For a country where the military remains the strongest bulwark against instability, and where anti-Americanism was already on the rise, the requirements are increasingly criticized as going too far.

The response to the US aid package is also seen as complicating the path of the pro-American government of President Asif Ali Zardari – not exactly the impact US officials envisioned.

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