Lawmakers and experts at the US congressional panel demanded cutting off all US assistance to Pakistan to persuade Islamabad to act against the Afghan Taliban groups allegedly using its territory to launch operations into Afghanistan…writes Manzoor Ahmed
Recently American lawmakers called Pakistan ‘manipulative’ in its fight against terror. They called for immediate end to any aid by a country that “treats us as chumps.” The criticism has termed ‘vicious’ by Pakistani media that is shocked and livid at some Americans “questioning our sovereignty” and want the government to give a fitting reply.
Some have angrily demanded that Pakistan itself refuse aid “so that we can learn to stand on our feet.” But Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on foreign affairs and National Security Advisor has downplayed the criticism.
Aziz said it was “baseless” and that some American lawmakers were influenced by “Afghan and Indian propaganda.” Joining the lawmakers, among others, was Zalmay Khalilzad, a key foreign policy operative during the George W Bush Jr, administration who was ambassador to Afghanistan after 2002, ambassador to Iraq after the 2003 war and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Lawmakers and experts at the US congressional panel demanded cutting off all US assistance to Pakistan to persuade Islamabad to act against the Afghan Taliban groups allegedly using its territory to launch operations into Afghanistan. Some US lawmakers and witnesses also suggested declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism and imposing economic sanctions if Islamabad did not eliminate the alleged terrorist safe havens on its territory, Dawn newspaper’s Washington representative Anwar Iqbal reported.
The July 12 afternoon hearing was provocatively titled— “Pakistan: Friend or foe?” It produced “more heat than expected and at some points it came close to challenging the country’s very existence as a sovereign state,” Iqbal said in the report.
The Congressional hearing comes at a time the US-Pak relations are experiencing yet another dip, when the demand for holding back American aid are voted out, but palpable anger remains. “More than once Pakistan was called manipulative and accused of treating the United States like chumps,” the report said. “They are making chumps out of us. They see us we are being so stupid. It seems like paying the mafia,” said Congressman Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“If I may use an undiplomatic term, we have been patsies,” said former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad. khalilzad, an ethnic Afghan, claimed that Pakistani leaders had gamed the American system for decades.
“Patsies chumps. Most Americans see out of this and yet our so-called leaders do not really get it,” said Mr Salmon while endorsing Mr Khalilzad’s views. The comments, broadcast live on the internet, prompted the Pakistan embassy in Washington to clarify that the United States and Pakistan were still allies and there is “positive counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries”.
In a statement, the Pakistani embassy in Washington pointed out that after a recent visit to Pakistan, Chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, saw first-hand the results of military operations in North Waziristan, and acknowledged that “he was impressed by the progress on ground”. “We need not remind the sceptics that no country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan,” said the embassy’s spokesman Nadeem Hotiana. But there was not even a mention of Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism at Tuesday’s joint hearing of the House subcommittees on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade and Asia and the Pacific.
Ambassador Khalilzad and Bill Roggio, senior editor of the Long War Journal, called for cutting aid to Pakistan and placing it on the list of state sponsor of terrorism.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia created the Taliban and the Haqqani network and Pakistan was protecting them. He said the continuation of US aid to Pakistan was “ridiculous” and urged the US administration to reach out directly to people of different Pakistani regions instead. “People of Balochistan should understand that the US is on their side for their independence and self-determination from a corrupt, viscous terrorist supporting regime,” Mr Rohrabacher said. “Same with the Sindhis, same with other groups in Pakistan.”
Congressman Salmon suggested that as the first step, the United States should completely cut off aid to Pakistan. “That would be the right first step. If we do not (make) any changes, we move some of the other suggestions, state sponsor terrorism, possible economic sanctions,” he added.
“I have never heard such harsh comments being used against a US ally,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed Western journalist after the hearing. The two subcommittees are associated with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They can be instrumental in passing legislations that persuade the administration to take the action they require. Tuesday’s hearing, held by known anti-Pakistan elements within Congress, aimed at bringing pressure on Pakistan to act against the Taliban groups allegedly based inside the country. So far, there are no real threats of a congressional sanction and recent attempts to do so have failed to get enough votes to pass.
Anti-Pakistan feelings in Congress are pervasive. It is extremely rare to hear pro-Pakistan remarks at congressional hearings, the newspaper observed.