Gloomy Pak-U.S. Relations
Pak-U.S. relations on several occasions have moved from trust to mutual suspicion due to variety of issues which dominates the variant interests of each country. During the last few weeks Pak-U.S. relations are once again seems to be becoming uncertain and complex. Last month, U.S. lawmakers had interrupted the financial aid to Pakistan putting sale of eight F-16 fighter jets in-line once again.
U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee, has also halted the aid package of $742 million that Obama administration has proposed for Pakistan during year 2017. The committee has recommended to utilization of these funds elsewhere. During the last week of April, at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen while chairing the proceedings launched a frontal attack on U.S. aid to Pakistan. She called Pakistan “a direct contributor to the Afghani Taliban’s success” and opined that “It makes little sense to continue giving Pakistan billions of dollars if it’s going to continue to work against U.S. interests’’. She urged Obama administration to use “leverage of aid” to make Pakistan “a better regional partner with Afghanistan”.
Republican Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen who represents 27th district of Florida has a reputation of recommending the cutting of U.S. aid to foreign countries and to U.S. institutions including State Department, The Peace Corps, the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the East-West Center. She had also advocated cutting funding to Lebanese Armed Forces and the West Bank and Gaza. In September 2011, she introduced a bill to cut off US funding to any UN organization that recognises Palestinian statehood. In the past, after comments by State Department over Israeli settlements, she demanded from Obama administration to halt its “condemnations” of “an indispensable ally (Israel) and friend of the United States.”
During the same hearing the transparency and accountability of Pakistani governance was also questioned. Congressmen Matt Salmon raised the issue of the Panama leaks at the hearing, noting that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family was named in those papers. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who has strong anti-Pakistan reputation opined that by keeping Dr Shakil Afridi in prison, the Pakistani government was ‘thumbing their nose to the United States and the people of the United States’. The matter of Dr Afridi is indeed very difficult to handle as Pakistani public has long held an outlook that the ruling elite easily give way to the U.S. pressures and for their legitimacy look towards Washington.
Following these developments, the spokesperson of Pakistani Embassy in Washington has stated that India had lobbied against Pakistan. But it should not be a surprise to Pakistan as rival countries do lobby against each other. However, it is deeply saddened that Pakistan’s former Ambassador to U.S. Husain Haqani has badly tarnished Pakistani reputation and credibility in the U.S. The present Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani appears to be working very hard to minimize the affects of the damage done by Mr. Haqani. Pakistan indeed need to be more pro-active on Capitol Hill for its lobbying efforts. Pakistan should urge the members of Pakistani congressional caucus to play their role in lobbying for Pakistan.
It is interesting to note that issue of the sale of F–16s to Pakistan has become a transformative element of the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship over 25 years. Pakistan’s existing fleet of F-16s have been critical for its counter-terrorism fight on the western border with Afghanistan. One must hope that Pakistan will get the required F-16s as they provide a critical counter-terrorism capability to Pakistan and PAF has recently made extensive use of its aging F–16 fleet to support Pakistan Army operations against terrorists. F–16s use day-night, all weather, air-dropped precision-guided munitions; and P.A.F will be able to use this capability to countering militants along its western border. The new and enhanced F–16s will provide Pakistan the ability to attack fleeing targets with precision during all weather conditions.
While it is impossible to forecast exactly how Pak-US relations will evolve in the short- and long-term futures; it is important that both countries should understand the mutual benefits of positive bilateral relations and create a conducive environment of ‘sustainable trust’ and not of ‘estrangement’.