WASHINGTON - Pakistan Thursday deplored claims about its continued support to the Haqqani network that a senior US lawmaker has used in his attempt to block funding for the sale of eight new F-16 jet fighters to the country, saying the Pakistani military is engaged in a sustained campaign against terrorists.

"Insinuations of facilitating the destabilising role of Haqqani network in Afghanistan in any way are indeed unfortunate," Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesman of the Pakistani embassy in Washington, said in response to US media reports that Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has stymied the Obama administration’s subsidised sale of the jets because of Pakistan's relationship with the militant group that targets US-trained security forces in Afghanistan.

At the same time, the spokesman said the F-16 deal has not been blocked but he did acknowledge that there were reservations regarding the financial aspect. "We intend to continue engaging constructively with the US side to address specific concerns," he said in a statement. “F-16s have proven to be the most potent vehicle for conducting precision strikes against terrorists,” Hotiana added. On his part, Senator Corker, a Republican, wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that he couldn’t allow the Obama administration to use taxpayer funds to support the sale of the jets to Pakistan.

He claimed the government in Islamabad continues to provide haven to the Haqqani network.

Corker, who recently returned from his fifth trip to Afghanistan, said the Pakistani government should be welcome to purchase the F-16s with its own money. The planned sale through the State Department’s foreign military sales programme, announced last year, was aimed at supporting Pakistan for its efforts against militants. “I do not want US taxpayer dollars going to support these acquisitions,” Corker was quoted as saying. “While we’re spending tremendous amounts of US dollars and certainly tremendous sacrifice in our men and women in uniform and by other agencies, they are working simultaneously to destabilise Afghanistan.”

Corker said he was using his authority as a committee chairman to object single-handedly to the proposed sale.“I fully understand that our relationship with Pakistan is both complicated and imperfect,” Corker wrote in the Feb 9 letter to Secretary Kerry. “Cooperation with Pakistan is important and has achieved some of our interests.”

But, he said, Pakistan’s activities are “immensely problematic” and contribute to the notion that Pakistan is a “duplicitous partner, moving sideways rather than forward in resolving regional challenges.”Meanwhile, Obama administration officials said the US has provided equipment and technology to the Pakistanis “to significant effect” in Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts and has helped the Pakistan military to be more effective against militants in the tribal regions but while minimising “collateral damage.”

“Our relationship with Pakistan is not about any one system, nor any one capability,” David McKeeby, of the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which oversees foreign military sales, said. “We go deeper than that.”

A Pentagon spokesman said he couldn’t discuss foreign military sales until Congress was formally notified. ”Our bilateral defence relationship with Pakistan is focused on enhancing counterterrorism capabilities and improving the military’s ability to deny ungoverned spaces to terrorists that undermine stability in the region,” Christopher Sherwood, a Pentagon spokesman said. In his statement, the Pakistan embassy spokesman said, "At the frontline of the global effort against terrorism, Pakistan has been most actively engaged in a sustained military campaign aimed at rooting out the menace in a non-discriminatory fashion. Sacrifice rendered by Pakistan’s security forces in operation Zarb-e-Azb have been accorded global recognition and appreciation – including at the senior levels of US administration. "Insinuations of facilitating the destabilising role of Haqqani network in Afghanistan in any way are indeed unfortunate.

"Counterterrorism lies at the heart of cooperation under existing Defence Cooperation Framework between Pakistan and the United States. The Congress has been consistently supportive in building Pakistan's counterterrorism capabilities of which 'precision strike capability' is an important pillar. F-16s have proven to be the most potent vehicle for conducting precision strikes against terrorists.

"We understand that the deal has not been blocked but there are reservations regarding the financial aspect. We intend to continue engaging constructively with the US side to address specific concerns. "We believe Pak-US relationship is characterized by resilience and would continue to flourish."



Agencies add: US Defence Intelligence Agency Director, Vincent Stewart has termed military operation Zarb-e-Azb and Karachi targeted operation ‘successful’ in reducing violence in Pakistan. In a testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Vincent Stewart said that “Military operation Zarb-e-Azb and targeted operation in Karachi have had some success in reducing violence and are likely to continue.”

Defence Intelligence Agency Director warned Islamabad will face internal security threats from terrorists, sectarian elements and separatist groups in future. He said Daesh Khurasan branch and al-Qaeda Sub-continent will remain significant security concerns for Pakistan.

Vincent Stewart went on to state that Pakistan continues to take steps to improve its nuclear security, and is aware of the threat presented by extremists to its programme.