Blocking delivery of F-16s


WEB DESK: The anti-Pakistan lobby in Washington has succeeded in blocking the sale of eight F-16 fighters to Pakistan – hopefully only for the time being. These fighter jets are to be delivered as part of the Obama administration’s decision to enhance Pakistan’s precision-strike capabilities against terrorists, who often escape being targeted by taking shelter among non-combatant civilian populations. Envisaged as counter-terrorism measure the jets are to be handed over under the Foreign Military Funding.

The deal was approved by the State Department in October last year – and had then nudged the anti-Pakistan Indian lobbyists into action to sabotage it. Nothing unusual about it, but what sets it apart from the norm this time was that the most forceful opposition to the delivery of F-16s was being voiced by none else but by one of Pakistan’s own former ambassadors in Washington, Hussain Haqqani. “Unless Pakistan changes its worldview and its compulsive competition with its larger neighbour, the American weapons will end being used to fight or menace India,” Hussain Haqqani told a Congressional panel and wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

What unbelievable somersaults he has been making in his brief but tumultuous political-cum-diplomatic career one may recount, but some other time. What more the Indian caucus in the US Congress could have! Within a day of Secretary of State John Kerry sending his department’s budget statement to the Congress, Republican Senator Bob Corker wrote him a letter, saying that the proposed sale was “immensely problematic”. According to him, “I do not want US taxpayers’ dollars going to support these acquisitions.” Not only this, the deal would also “destabilise Afghanistan because Pakistan continues to support the Haqqani network.” Which Haqqani he was talking about? His Haqqani or, the Afghan Haqqani?

However, Pakistan’s mission in Washington is confident that the delivery of the eight F-16s would materialise. “We understand that the deal has not been blocked. We intend to continue engaging constructively with the US side to address specific concerns,” says the mission’s spokesperson. Bob Croker doesn’t seem to be familiar with the outcome of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb that has gone apace against all kinds of terrorists. In the tribal areas where a part of the Haqqani tribes resides Pakistan has carried out a sustained military campaign in a non-discriminatory fashion. The time of good Taliban and bad Taliban is long past. If at some time the Haqqani network was a favourite of Pakistan then it was also a buddy of the Americans, who saw in elder Jalaluddin Haqqani the most ferocious fighter against the Soviet invaders.

And even now the said network is part of the Afghan Taliban that the Americans as part of the quadrilateral set-up are eager to engage. Senator Croker’s letter to John Kerry is against the spirit of congressional unanimity that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism should be meaningfully augmented. No more in Afghanistan, but in the fight against terrorism and extremism globally as a frontline state. Denial of access to effective tools to combat terrorism would amount to helping the anti-peace forces in the region and beyond.

Source: Business Recorder