Citing “weariness” over Pakistan’s support for terrorism, US lawmakers on Tuesday said it was time to consider harsher measures, starting with cutting off financial aid to the country.
A lawmaker said if that doesn’t work, the US could consider declaring Pakistan a “state sponsor of terrorism” — like Sudan, Syria and Iran — and subjecting it to crippling sanctions.
That would be a new low for Pakistan, currently held close by the US as a “non-Nato ally” and a “critical counterterrorism partner”, but not entirely unexpected.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers came together recently to block an Obama administration move to sell Pakistan eight heavily subsidised F-16 fighter jets.
They also sought to make future financial aid contingent — and not optional, covered by waivers — on the administration certifying Pakistan’s counterterrorism measures.
Now, however, they are asking if it is time to stop all aid altogether. Speaking of “newly endemic weariness” with Pakistan, Republican Congressman Matt Salmon said that “patience is growing very thin”.
“If our current efforts in Pakistan are not producing the results we seek then what are our options?” he asked while chairing a House sub-committee hearing on Pakistan’s role in counterterrorism.
“We could simply turn the money off…we could enforce sanctions or declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism,” he said, seeking guidance from experts testifying at the hearing.
On the question of financial support, Salmon said Pakistan made the US look like a “bunch of chumps” by taking its money and doing nothing in return against terrorism.
Dana Rohrabacher, another Republican, brought up Osama bin Laden, who was caught hiding in plain sight in Pakistan and killed in 2011, to say it was “absurd” to give it financial aid.
Pakistan is a leading recipient of US aid, with Congress approving $18 billion from 2002 to 2015, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.
The country also received $13 billion from the Coalition Support Fund as reimbursements for logistical and operational support it provided to US troops operating in Afghanistan.
“Providing more assistance to a government that has supported terrorists…may not be the best use of taxpayers’ money,” said Brad Sherman, the senior-most Democrat in the sub-committee.
Sherman cited as proof a statement from former president Pervez Musharraf acknowledging that Pakistan supported Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Both groups, based in Pakistan, have carried out multiple terror strikes in India. LeT was responsible for the worst of them, the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and JeM for the assault on Pathankot airbase.
While Islamabad has acted against the Pakistani Taliban, it has allowed LeT, JeM and other anti-India groups, and, to America’s annoyance, the Haqqani Network to prosper.
The Haqqani Network, a wing of the Afghan Taliban, has been described by US officials as a “veritable arm” of ISI, and operates from bases in Pakistan’s northwestern areas.
Pakistan’s continued failure to act decisively against the Haqqani Network infuriates Americans, and some lawmakers have taken to calling it a “duplicitous” ally.