| George W. Bush laughs during the 60th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington. (AFP)
Islamabad/Washington, March 25: US President George W. Bush has waived all sanctions on Pakistan imposed after President Pervez Musharraf seized power in a 1999 bloodless coup, rewarding a key ally in America’s war on terrorism.
The waiver, which clears the way for Pakistan to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in direct economic aid, follows last week’s granting of a major non-Nato ally status for Pakistan.
Bush, who has already removed most of the nuclear-related sanctions against Pakistan, yesterday issued an order waiving the coup-related restrictions, saying it “is important to (the) US’ efforts to respond to, deter, or prevent acts of international terrorism”.
This would facilitate the transition to democratic rule in Pakistan, Bush said in a written statement and instructed secretary of state Colin Powell to transmit “this determination to the Congress and to arrange for its publication in the federal register”.
However, most of the sanctions were either suspended or relaxed since 2001 onward.
The US President renews the waiver every year until the sanctions go away for good through a legislation from the Congress.
Pakistan welcomed the waiver. “This is a good decision and we welcome it,” foreign ministry spokesperson Masood Khan said in Islamabad.
“The latest decision reflects the increasing co-operation between the two countries in many areas,” Khan added.
The US President had last year announced a $3 billion economic assistance package for Pakistan, including over a billion dollars to enable it to repay old loans.
Last week, Powell, during his visit to Islamabad, had announced that Pakistan would be designated a major non-Nato ally by America in recognition of its invaluable contribution to the war on terror.
Pakistan has so far arrested and handed over more than 500 al Qaida and Taliban fugitives to the US.
As an acknowledgement of Islamabad’s move against religious extremists, terrorists and nuclear proliferators, the US government has allowed the Exim Bank to finance short, medium and long-term projects.
It has also granted two-thirds of its airspace to be used as an air corridor by the US-led coalition forces.
“By doing so, Pakistan has had to reschedule or redirect many of its commercial flights”, The News said quoting a US central command report.
The daily said that Pakistan has been providing, on an average, 0.4 million litres of fuel per day to the US forces.
and other services on the bases used by them. “A total of 57,800 sorties have been generated from pakistan's airspace”.
Pakistan navy has also provided landing facility to the coalition warships at pasni, west of karachi on the arabian sea coastline, while “curtailing” its own operations and training programmes in order to accommodate and facilitate these naval forces.
”The naval operations in pasni were the largest operations in size, duration and depth that the us marine corps has conducted since the korean war”, the daily said.