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Obama signs off on extra aid for Pakistan

Extra $7.5 billion in US aid will go for Pakistan's economic support, not new military help.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi meets with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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President Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that triples economic aid to Pakistan, even as it seeks to shift the focus of the US partnership with Pakistan from the military to the country's people and civilian institutions.

The new assistance program, which boosts US aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over the next five years, seeks to redirect the substantial aid the US has provided Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks to a "hearts and minds" battle aimed at winning over the Pakistani population in the struggle with Islamic extremism.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the new aid a "tangible manifestation of broad support for Pakistan in the US." He also said that Mr. Obama sees the new legislation bolstering a US-Pakistan relationship that is "grounded in support for Pakistan's democratic institutions and the Pakistani people."

The thrust of the new aid package had already caused some rumblings in Pakistan's military, but the disquiet turned to outrage and shouts of lost sovereignty among Pakistan's military and political opposition after the stipulations for Pakistan to receive the annual aid became clear.

The uproar prompted Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to hurry back to Washington this week after having reviewed the legislation with administration officials and congressional leaders in a quiet visit just last week. It also prompted the US Congress to hastily attach a post-vote statement to the aid law clarifying that the legislation is not intended as a strike at Pakistan's sovereignty.


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