F-16 subsidy deal unlikely


WEB DESK: In a devastating blow to the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb the Obama administration has decided not to subsidize the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, according to a senior US State Department official who was talking to a foreign news channel.

This implies that Pakistan would have to dish out over 700 million dollars rather than 250 million dollars originally offered by the Obama administration. The US lawmakers led by Republican Rand Paul, Bob Corker and John McCain approved the sale but opposed the subsidy by labelling Pakistan an “uncertain ally”. Expressing concerns about Pakistan’s alleged ties with the Haqqani network, they were of the view that the subsidy would “complicate US’ relations with India”.

This comes in the wake of the robust defence by Secretary of State John Kerry who had maintained during the congressional hearing that “the F-16s have been a critical part of the Pakistani fight against the terrorists in the western part of that country, and have been effective in that fight. And Pakistan has lost some 50,000 people in the last years, including troops, to the terrorists that are threatening Pakistan itself.” When asked outright if this would complicate relations with India, Kerry had argued that “it’s always complicated. We try to be sensitive to the balance, obviously, with respect to India.

But we do believe that Pakistan is engaged legitimately in a very tough fight against identifiable terrorists in their country that threaten Pakistan…They [Pakistan] have got about 150,000 to 180,000 troops out in the western part of their country. They’ve been engaged in North Waziristan in a long struggle to clear the area and move people out. They have made some progress in that. Is it enough in our judgement? No” Kerry also added that “We’re particularly concerned about the sanctuary components of Pakistan, and we’re particularly concerned about some individual entities in Pakistan that have been supportive of relationships with some of the people that we consider extremely dangerous to our interests in Afghanistan elsewhere; the Haqqani network, prime example of that.”

It is indeed unfortunate that the Obama administration, defending the sale at subsidised rates, stuck to its ‘do more’ mantra for Pakistan with respect to the Haqqani network, and appears to have buckled under the powerful Indian lobby even though Kerry acknowledged some progress has been made to clear North Waziristan of terrorists but that in the administration’s judgement it was not enough. And unfortunately, the cost of the possible abandonment by the Obama administration of trying to convince the pro-Indian lobby in Congress may well be in lives lost both in Pakistan and in other countries that may include the US.

While as noted above, the US Congress has approved the sale though not a subsidy at the US taxpayers’ expense yet given the state of the economy, notwithstanding the claims by the Minister of Finance, it is doubtful if the negative fallout of a 700 million dollar purchase would not be felt at the grass root level.

What is further extremely disturbing about the recent bad news emanating from Washington DC is the fact that our civilian and military leadership do not appear to be on the same page on a multiplicity of issues ranging from the government’s handling of the Panama leaks to the arrest of the Indian spy Yadav to breaking the nexus between corruption and terror-financing.

And these differences do not appear to be behind closed doors after ISPR released a statement by the Chief of Army Staff a few weeks ago calling for an across-the-board accountability followed by government stalwarts criticising news of the accountability of senior army officials including two generals.

Source: Business Recorder