Even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is trying to shore up support in the UN general assembly for Pakistan over Kashmir, two American lawmakers introduced a bill in the US Congress on Tuesday proposing to designate Islamabad a state sponsor of terrorism. But Pakistan may still escape the terror tag.
“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” said Ted Poe, chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, in a statement announcing the introduction of the bill, H.R.(H.R stands for House of Representatives) 6069, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act.
“From harbouring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror,” he added.
Poe, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Texas, introduced the Bill jointly with Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California who heads the House’s sub-committee on Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats.
If enacted, the Bill will require the President to give a report to Congress within 90 days on whether Pakistan had supported international terrorism, or not. Within 30 days thereafter, the secretary of state will either determine Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism, or say why not.
“It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism,” Poe said.
The Congressman did not cite Pakistan’s role in the Uri attack, as alleged by New Delhi, among the reasons for introducing the bill, but there was an unmistakably direct link given the time and the context. There has been a steady stream of bipartisan expressions of support for India and condemnation of the attack on the army base in Uri by Pakistan-based Jaish-i-Mohammad since Sunday, from members of both chambers of Congress.
Frustration with Pakistan’s patchy record on counter-terrorism was so high that members had been mulling state-sponsor of terror designation for Pakistan for a while.
“If our current efforts in Pakistan are not producing the results we seek then what are our options?,” Representative Matt Salmon, a Republican, had asked during a recent Congressional hearing about Pakistan. “We could simply turn the money off … we could enforce sanctions or declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism,” he added.
Richard Grenier, who was once CIA station chief in Islamabad, told lawmakers at another hearing recently that the US had nearly designated Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror in the 1990s, around the time when militancy was escalating in Kashmir.
Pakistan escaped then, and will possibly escape this time as well.
What could work in favour of Pakistan is that there is not enough time left for this Congress to consider the Bill and ensure its passage through many stages. And even if it is passed, it may not get presidential assent given that the Obama administration is at the fag end of its term.
But the thought of a such a bill in the US Congress is unlikely to sit well with Prime Minister Sharif as he seeks to draw the world’s attention to an area frequently targeted by terrorists based in Pakistan.
The US currently has three countries on its list of state sponsors of terrorism — Iran, Syria and Sudan — who under the rules are subject to foreign assistance restrictions, ban on defence exports and sales, export control on dual use items and various other forms of restrictions.