ISLAMABAD – Pakistan was panicked after the United States hinted at more aid restrictions on the terror war allay amid the already ‘complicated’ ties, officials in Islamabad said yesterday.
The alarm bells started ringing yesterday when, brushing aside White House objections, US House of Representatives passed a $602 billion defence policy bill that blocks $450 million aid to Pakistan unless it does more in fight against terrorism.
The US lawmakers were looking to use the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) to increase pressure on Pakistan as they want Islamabad to wipe out the Haqqani network, which lawmakers see as a major threat to US forces in Afghanistan.
They believe Islamabad has failed to launch an effective crackdown on the militant network on its side of the border.
A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation, the whole diplomatic corps was active to save the deteriorating ties with the US.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had asked the top diplomats including Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi to counter the Indian lobbies in Washington and work for improving the relations.
“At this moment, it is a panic situation.
The signals from Washington are not very positive and it is not easy for us to live without them,” he added.
US State Department earlier said ties with Pakistan were vital but ‘complicated’ after indications that Washington will not pay its share for the F-16s jet as promised under the Foreign Military Financing.
The NDAA requires the Pentagon to certify that Pakistan was conducting military operations to disrupt the Haqqani network, not letting the network use North Waziristan Agency as a safe haven and actively coordinating with Afghanistan’s government to fight the network along their border.
As the House finalised the 2017 version of the annual bill, members added three amendments related to Pakistan.
All passed by unanimous voice vote.
The House version of the NDAA is not the final version of the legislation.
It must be combined with a Senate bill before being sent to the White House for President Barrack Obama to sign, or veto.
Another official at Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the top diplomats were in contact with the US counterparts to convince them about Pakistan’s role in anti-terror war.
“They are being told we are serious in the fight against terrorism and if the US walked away at this time, terrorism could become even a bigger issue,” he said.
The official said despite improving ties with Russia and time-tested relations with China, Pakistan could not afford to lose the US.
“The US is a key global power and has been donating generously for Pakistan’s development.
They have been helpful in defence also so we need them,” he added.
The amendments passed by the House members say Pakistan should show progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani network senior leaders and mid-level operatives and Secretary of Defence should certify Pakistan was not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the US to persecute minority groups.
Another amendment added a ‘sense of Congress’ that Shakil Afridi – who helped US trace Osama Bin Laden – was an international hero and called for his immediate release from prison.
Pakistan has sentenced Afridi in 2012 to 33 years in jail on charges of belonging to a militant group, which he denies.
That sentence was overturned and Afridi is now awaiting trial on another charge.
Defence Analyst Lt.
General Talat Masood (r) advised the government that it should look for alternate options and decrease its dependence over US.
“Anti-Pakistan lobby would try to jeopardise any deal between Pakistan and other arms selling countries,” he added.
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT adds from WASHINGTON
Ahead of the House’s vote the White House said in its policy statement, “The administration objects to section 1212 (of HR 4919), which would make $450 million of CSF (Coalition Support Fund) to Pakistan ineligible for the Secretary of Defence’s waiver authority unless the Secretary provides a certification to the Congressional defense committees.
It said, “We share the committee’s concerns regarding the threat posed to our forces and interests in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network, and we continue to engage with Pakistan at the highest levels regarding the need for concerted action specifically against the group.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 21-May-2016