After US President Donald Trump fulfilled his New Year’s resolution, on New Year’s Day no less, and sent out that tweet of his against Pakistan – rather the country’s leadership – accountants have been hired to do the math regarding the exact amount that is at stake for Islamabad.

Considering the astounding levels of transparency, fulfillment of vows and the sheer volume of mutual trust, no supernatural calculus has come close to doing the needed calculation, such that the precise value is extricated.

This confusion was witnessed in the contrasting, and oft fluctuating, statements that were released in the immediate aftermath of the tweet: ‘Hold on, we’re calculating our response’, ‘Oh here is our strong reply!’, ‘But US and Pakistan are friends’, ‘We’d beat US in a war any day’, ‘But since we’re historic allies, why would we fight?’, ‘Oh bring it on Trump!’…

Let’s break down the breakdown in US-Pakistan economic ties.

First, Washington has decided to cut security aid to Pakistan estimated to be around $2 billion per annum. One doesn’t know if this includes any penalties for the fact that ISIS has allied with the Pakistani Taliban along the Af-Pak border, where it has found a safe you-know-what after their Middle Eastern exodus.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert saying that security assistance has been suspended till Pakistan takes ‘decisive action against militants’ that are ‘threatening the stability of the nation’ and ‘targeting US personnel’ doesn’t quite make it any clearer.

However, she did mention the $1.1 billion that Pakistan receives under the Coalition Support Fund and the $255 million that has already been withheld in military aid.

But considering that US sent $1.6 billion in security aid to Pakistan in 2003, a figure which as of the recently culminated year stood at $319.7 million, the cost for Islamabad’s chants for self-respect and sovereignty is a few hundred million less than what it might’ve been a decade ago.

Here we are talking about military sovereignty of course, for all other kinds of aid wants to come in – should we allow it to. Islamabad received $422.5 million in fiscal year 2017 as economic and development aid, while USAID data shows $778 million worth of assistance in 2016.

Even so, with Pakistan initiating a crackdown against international nongovernment organisations, as per the Radd-ul-INGOs military operation, it is a case of Pakistan not wanting certain kinds of aid, and taking steps to further shut down potential doors.

Also, while we figure out the exact number of dollars at stake, let’s not forget that the amount takes various shapes and forms. One particular striking shape is American military equipment and intelligence sharing.

Between the gamut that runs from historical allies to ready to fight lies the numbers that have been thrown by Pakistani leaders. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for instance has narrowed the US aid down to a “very, very insignificant” amount, which is less than $10 million in the past five years. Meanwhile, the premier says that the cost of the war on terror to Pakistan’s economy is close to $120 billion.

Pakistan’s happens to be an economy facing depletion in its reserves and a growing balance of payment deficit. Meanwhile, the US happens to be a country that ‘influences’ the World Bank and IMF.

Therefore, in short, when one adds up the international donors that mightn’t quite spring to Pakistan’s aid, the global sources that Pakistan wants to plug out, and indeed the direct suspension, the exact amount climbs up to ‘only a few billion dollars’.

The aforementioned calculation that illustrates in detail how this figure has been reached, will be sent across the northeastern border to make the needed demand for the balance of payment.

That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, even if it’s a staggering amount of only a few billion dollars.


The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.