Pakistan gives awards to Biden, Lugar for support

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari announced Tuesday government awards for U.S. Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar.

Biden and Lugar in July introduced a bipartisan U.S. aid plan which calls for $1.5 billion per year in non-military spending to support economic development in Pakistan.

Zardari had awarded them the “Hilal-i-Pakistan” (Crescent of Pakistan) “in recognition of their consistent support for Pakistan,” the government said in a statement.

Pakistan has figured in the U.S. presidential election campaign, with both Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain speaking of the need for more focus on defeating the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and eradicating al Qaeda from Pakistan’s borderlands.

Zardari is the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a suicide attack in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27 last year.

Bhutto always enjoyed good relations with the United States and Zardari is also seen as a firm U.S. ally.

Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait