In a gesture to Pakistan for its support for U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, a U.S. Senate panel approved, by voice vote, a bill lifting the remaining sanctions against Islamabad for two years.
The measure passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would lift sanctions imposed after the 1999 coup that overthrew a democratic government and brought General Pervez Musharraf to power. The restrictions bar the United States from providing economic and military assistance to Islamabad.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, would waive those restrictions for the current fiscal year, which began Monday. It would allow President Bush to waive them a second consecutive year if he found that would help Pakistan move to democratic rule and fight terrorism.
Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, said the bill is expected to move quickly through the full Senate.
The House is expected to take up similar legislation soon. Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona is chairman of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee. He said, "I think the Congress does need to look at this whole issue, and it will be in the context of national security requirements as well as how well Pakistan has responded to our call for help, and I think they have responded very openly."
Last month, Mr. Bush lifted sanctions on both Pakistan and India that were imposed after the countries' conducted their first nuclear tests in 1998.
Meanwhile, the House is expected to begin considering an aid package to Pakistan soon. In an interview with VOA, Congressman Kolbe noted that such aid should be aimed at supporting Pakistan's economy and helping the country deal with the large influxes of Afghan refugees.
"There are two things that are absolutely critical in terms of aid to Pakistan, one is to help the refugees that are flooding into the country there, which are putting such a strain on the Pakistani budget and the government and the social services," said Mr. Kolbe. "The second thing is to get jobs to these people. The quickest way to do that in my opinion is to lift the quotas that we have on textiles. Pakistan has a well-developed textile industry. That will enable us to get these jobs immediately, if they were able to shift textiles into the United States, there would be the creation of jobs almost instantaneously in Pakistan."
Congressman Kolbe would like to introduce such legislation in the coming weeks.