Pakistan: pal for pay or frenemy in the way! —

Malali Bashir
Iamge source:

Pakistan receives billions of dollars from the US. The recent freeze is only a small share of this large sum of foreign aid but this would definitely serve as a warning to Islamabad.

After withholding $ 800 million in military aid in July last year, a Congressional panel in the US further cut down $ 700 million of assistance to Pakistan at the end of 2011. The US Congress argues that the aid will remain pending until Pakistan implements a strategy against the spread of locally made explosives. According to reports, these homemade bombs are most commonly used in attacks against the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Almost $ 20 billion in civil and military aid has been paid by the US since 2001, most of which is a reimbursement for cooperation in counterinsurgency to Pakistan, which is believed to have shown reluctance in positive cooperation in the war on terror. BBC reported that some of the Congressmen believe Pakistan has not only 'failed to stop terrorists' from planning attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan but they have in some instances 'helped terrorists'.

The Pak-US ties noticeably strained earlier last year after the arrest of a CIA contractor in January. And following a request for the diversion of most of US's aid to the civilian sector, Pakistan asked for a significant 'cut back' of US military trainers and impeded the process for US personnel to get visas. Pakistani officials chose to remain in a state of denial about having any knowledge of Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan. The al Qaeda chief was killed by US Navy SEALs on May 2 in Abbottabad, a garrison town just a couple of hours drive away from the capital, Islamabad.

With all these billions of dollars pledged to Pakistan, the US is understandably upset over Pakistan's obstreperous behaviour in countering insurgency in the region. Many of the terror groups including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Haqqani network are up and running. The latter is claimed to be based in North Waziristan and Pakistan has continuously dodged US demands of carrying out a military operation against the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Alternatively, the Obama administration has increased drone attacks on the Haqqani group and other militants in that region. Pakistan has publicly shown grievances about drones. CIA's drone programme could face a bit of a hurdle as the US had to evacuate the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, which is believed to be used for drones. Pakistan asked for the evacuation of the base after NATO bombarded a Pakistani military checkpost on the border with Afghanistan killing 24 of its soldiers. Showing its anger over NATO's attack, Pakistan has blocked the supply route to the coalition forces in Afghanistan. However, Reuters recently reported: "Pakistan expects to re-open supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan, but will impose tariffs. Fees were designed to both express continued anger over the November 26 attack and raise funds for the state to fight homegrown Taliban militants."

Charging NATO could prove fruitful for Pakistan, which is already under scrutiny from American lawmakers and there are less chances of getting continuous financial support from its international allies in the war on terror. Many US politicians have already shown disbelief about Pakistan's role as a US trustworthy ally despite Islamabad's claims of losing thousands of soldiers and over 30,000 civilians in the war on terror. However, Islamabad has been calling its current pro-insurgency policy as its strategic depth and an element of national interest. The latest episode shows that the US should fully stop funding Pakistan that has enough economic problems and could change its policies if it comes under extreme financial pressure.

Pakistan receives billions of dollars from the US. The recent freeze is only a small share of this large sum of foreign aid but this would definitely serve as a warning to Islamabad, which has to decide to continue its pro-insurgents policy or be a genuine and productive US ally in the war on terror.

This article was published in The DailyTimes before.

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