ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan will not seek release of the suspended US military aid as it no longer considers it “crucial”, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation, that Pakistan wanted to “live on” without the US aid. One official said: “There have been contacts. We have discussed how to improve the ties but not a single time did we speak about the release of the suspended aid. We don’t think it is crucial anymore.”

Another official said: “The top bosses have asked us [diplomats] to discuss ties with the US but do not mention the aid. We don’t want it [the money] now.”

He said the US was seeking guarantees from Pakistan to “target the terrorists indiscriminately” for the release of the funds. “We [Pakistan] have told them [the US] that we are fighting all the terrorists but don’t want to beg for the aid. Having said this, back-channel efforts are on to defuse Pak-US tension,” the official added.

This month, US President Donald Trump said the US was suspending aid to Pakistan for allegedly deceiving Pakistan in the war on terror.

Pakistan has rejected US allegations that it was not taking action against all the terror networks and also questioned Trump’s claim of giving $33 billion to Pakistan as security assistance.

Islamabad said it had fought the anti-terror war largely from its own resources for the sake of the country’s and global peace. Islamabad is also considering blocking supplies to the US forces in Afghanistan through the Pak-Afghan border as retaliation to Washington’s hostile attitude.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said Pakistan was “considering this option” but there “has been no decision as yet.”

The US uses military supply lines that run food and equipment from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Reports said that the US was “watching for Pakistan’s next moves” as the two countries struggle to retain the relationship.

This week, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told journalists that Pakistan had not indicated to shut off ground supply lines, or air over-flights.

He said that the US was still in contact with Pakistan to coordinate military supply routes for its forces in Afghanistan even after Trump suspended the security assistance to Pakistan .

Mattis said the US Central Command head General Joseph Votel had spoken to army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa a few days ago.

Amid tension, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said the Pak-US intelligence sharing and defence cooperation had been suspended. The US denied the claim.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that alliance with the US was “over” after the suspension of aid.

He said Pakistan was not prepared to give any more sacrifices for the US.  Asif called the US a friend that “always betrays Pakistan”.

US embassy spokesperson Richard Snelsire said the US was now granting short-term visas to Pakistani diplomats and officials working in the US as Pakistan was not issuing long-term visas to the American counterparts.

“On official visas, we issue visas for the same period of time as the visas we receive from Pakistan but that is not new. We also take about the same amount of time to process the visas as it takes for us to receive visas for official visas,” he told The Nation.

Snelsire explained that Pakistan was issuing only three-month renewable visas to the American diplomats and officials who were working in Islamabad irrespective of their term.

“If an American diplomat is assigned to work in Pakistan for three years, he will have to get the visa renewed multiple times. Previously, the diplomat or the official was required to leave Pakistan and come back after the visa is renewed. Now we can get it renewed, while staying in Pakistan ,” he explained.

The spokesperson said the US had been issuing visas to the Pakistani diplomats according to their tenure but had now started matching the Pakistani practice.  “We still want to accept our request so that the diplomats can work without thinking about their visas. We will welcome if Pakistan starts granting long-term visas, which we will reciprocate,” he said, adding the visa issue was not linked to the Pak-US tension.

Snelsire said there was no change in visa policy for other applicants.

 

 

Shafqat Ali