In the first part of the movie Godfather, Tom Hagen tries to explain to Santino (Sonny) Corleone that the feud with the opponents was about business. Even the attempted murder of his father Vito Corleone, Hagen tells Sonny, was business, not personal. American frustration with Pakistan is about business. Nothing personal here.
The clown in the Oval Office has decided not to reimburse Pakistan for the expenses the latter has incurred in fighting the Americans’ war, which by Pakistan’s stupidity, foolhardy and myopia has become Pakistan’s war. It is like being pulled into a quagmire by a friend whom one was trying to rescue from slow drowning. It is the choice Pakistan has made and would now have to live with. Pakistan has seen its citizens slaughtered, infrastructure destroyed, security and economic situations devastated. The cheapest commodity in this society is human life. Thanks to Uncle Sam for bringing this mess to the nearest theatres. The story of US aid to Pakistan or as the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi rightly pointed out, Coalition Support Fund (CSF), has many key factors driving it.
In a vivid reminiscence of the Pressler amendment, the United States has once again decided to abandon Pakistan in the midst of a war so as to punish Pakistan, after the US leaves Afghanistan, for looking out for its own interests. The Pressler amendment was enacted in August 1985 when the American supported Jihad against the Soviets was at full swing. The sanctions, however, were unleashed on Pakistan in October 1990. The Pressler amendment had two conditions for the US economic and military assistance to Pakistan: factual and judgemental certifications. The “factual” certification required the US president by law to review the intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear activities and report to Congress that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. The “judgemental” certification required the US president to testify that the continuation of the US aid helps in reducing the risk of Pakistan having a nuclear explosive device. Truth be told, the US was well aware of General Zia’s nuclear program but looked the other way because turning Afghanistan into Soviet’s Vietnam was way more important. Pakistan’s utility was absolutely needed. Ambiguous terms like “possession” of nuclear device were defined creatively to make way for the aid to be continued.
The Coalition Support Fund (CSF) being blocked by Trump is a deja vu all over again. Trump had already expressed his frustration and dissatisfaction with Pakistan by blaming Pakistan for taking billions of US taxpayers’ dollars and giving “nothing but lies and deceit” in return. However, this move is crucial because of its timing. US government has been pressuring the IMF against loaning Pakistan because they argue that that money goes to China and that the US dollars shouldn’t go to countries that chant slogans of ‘Death to America’. India has been trying to buy the Russian made missile defence system S-400 called Triumf. That system is incompatible with the American made F-35, which India doesn’t want to buy and which the Americans desperately want to sell to India.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis and his Indian counterpart signed The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement. It allows India to receive military-grade communications equipment from the United States and permit the exchange of real-time encrypted information on platforms used by the Indian and American armed forces. The blocking of the CSF and the agreement are to appease India to ensure the sale of F-35 sometime in the future and also for India to abandon the Russian S-400. Basically, the message to India is this: We stop giving aid to Pakistan while you don’t buy the Iranian oil and the Russian S-400 as a quid pro quo. Just like during the 80s, the tacit agreement between Reagan and Zia was for Reagan to allow Pakistan strengthen itself against its arch-rival India by looking the other way while Zia was developing nuclear weapons and for Zia to help the United States humiliate its arch-rival Soviet Union by promoting Jihad.
The other reason of the bellyache is the man who now is Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Imran Khan strongly and logically criticised US foreign policy in the region. He campaigned for the drone strikes in FATA to be stopped. To that end, he even staged a sit-in to block the NATO supply routes in 2013-14. He has always strongly defended his nation on the global media and portrayed it as a victim of terrorism and American foreign policy. He is not really someone whom Washington can call “our man in Islamabad”. The WikiLeaks revelations had him mentioned as the only politician not under American influence. He is nobody’s man and that right there is the problem. He is not liked by the power system in the United States. No stone would be left unturned to contribute toward Imran Khan’s failure. There are serious threats to his life. This blocking of the CSF is to arm twist Imran and leave him in hard waters hoping that he might bow. I can already smell freshly minted dollars arriving in Lifafas (envelopes) for the myriad Pakistani journalists up for sale.
The writer is a political analyst.