On Dr Hafiz Shaikh’s visit to USBy Inam R Sehri • Apr 24th, 2012 • Category: Lead Story, Politics, Worth A Second Look • 3 Comments
On 18th April 2012, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh along with Governor State Bank of Pakistan and Federal Secretary Finance landed at Washington to hold talks with the US and World Bank authorities about the restoration of aid to the country which was promised for Pakistan earlier in 2009 under Kerry-Lugar Bill. Federal Minister Dr Shaikh in his meetings with the US officials, inter alia, reiterated demand for payment of US grant under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan which was projected at $ 800 million to be received during the previous year, while it did not get any funds since December 2010 under CSF.
Let us recall that on 30th September 2009, the US Congress approved non-military aid to Pakistan to help fight extremism, sending the measure to President Obama for signing into law. The legislation authorised $1.5 billion a year for the next five years as part of a bid to build a new relationship with Pakistan that no longer focuses largely on military ties, but also on Pakistan’s social and economic development. The bill also stipulated that US military aid would cease if Pakistan would not help fight ‘terrorists’ including Taliban and Al Qaeda. The bill’s sponsor, Howard Berman said that:
‘….. Nor can we permit the Pakistani state – and its nuclear arsenal – to be taken over by the Taliban. To keep military aid flowing, Pakistan must also cooperate to dismantle nuclear supplier networks by offering relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks’.
It is on record that the then US envoy to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, heard a hot criticism over the Kerry-Lugar bill from Gen Kayani and DG ISI Gen Pasha in a two-hour meeting on 6th October 2009. Gen Kayani had made clear to the Ambassador and accompanying Gen McCrystal, during an urgent meeting at GHQ, about his concerns. Gen Crystal understood the viewpoint of Pak-Army and was not at all happy when he left the GHQ. Gen Kayani told them that there were elements in the bill that would set back the bilateral relationship, and critical provisions were almost entirely directed against the Army. Gen Kayani was particularly irritated on clauses of civilian control of the military since he had no intention of taking over the government. ‘Had I wanted to do this, I would have done it during the long march [of March 2009]’, Gen Kayani had told the US Ambassador clearly.
In the opinion of the foreign policy experts, the KL-Bill was a card for intervention in the purely internal policies of a sovereign state and this would turn Pakistan into a virtual client State. There were so much polarizations on this issue that even coalition partners of the PPP were either speaking against its intrusive clauses or had opted to keep mum for obvious reasons.
Under this Bill the US Secretary of State had to certify that Pakistan was making significant efforts to prevent al-Qaeda and associated terrorist groups, including Lashkar e Taiba [LeT] and Jaish e Mohammad [JeM] from using its territory to launch attacks against US or NATO forces in Afghanistan or cross border attacks into neighbouring countries, pointing out towards India.
The US Secretary of State was also required to certify that the Pakistan Army would not materially or substantially subvert the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.
Certain stinking clauses in the bill appeared to be the blessing of the Indian embassy in Washington and their lobbyists. These included the ones dealing with the dismantling of terrorist operational bases in Quetta and Muridke; preventing terrorist groups like LeT & JeM from operating in Pakistani territory; taking action when provided with intelligence on high-level terrorist targets including elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency [ISI], particularly ones which conducted attacks against the territory or people of neighbouring countries [referring to Mumbai attacks of Nov 2008]
In Kerry-Lugar Bill, another humiliating condition was that ‘Pakistan would grant US investigators “direct access to Pakistani nationals” associated with nuclear-proliferation networks [referring to Dr A Q Khan]. To please their American counterparts, the Pakistani rulers in succession, Gen Musharraf & Mr Zardari, kept Dr Khan under house arrest but consistently refused to allow the foreign investigators to question him. The people of Pakistan were angry over Dr Khan’s maltreatment and more so because about 83% of Pakistanis had opposed both the rulers to be a part of war on terror (WoT); Mr Zardari took it as politically motivated.
The Bill envisaged that the US Secretary of State must certify that Pakistan continued to cooperate with the United States to dismantle supplier network relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons related material, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks. It was disgusting for every Pakistani because no one here wanted to hear any sort of derogatory compromise over country’s nuclear programme.
True, that Pakistan government was in no position to reject the aid on offer but the people raised their voices saying that ‘the dollars would never come in Pakistan; instead the same would fill the already bulky Swiss & Dubai bank accounts of their rulers’.
Astonishingly, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani told the media that ‘the US was the sole super power of the contemporary world and it was not possible for any country to influence its policies. The people who are criticising the recently passed Kerry-Luger bill have not studied the document in detail. Maintaining good relations with the US was in the larger interest of the nation.’
Amid the growing discontent in Pakistan over the conditions attached with the said bill, Islamabad hired a new lobbyist, Cassidy and Associates, one of the biggest lobbying firms in Washington, for a whopping $700,000 a year plus ‘other’ expenses to push its cause in the aftermath of that historic blunder; clearly indicating at the same time that Pakistan was not satisfied with the work of the age-old PPP’s lobbyist Mark Siegel, who was a close friend of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Despite all the negative points and displeasure of the army and the general populace on record, even then our government has preferred to send its Finance Minister and Governor SBP to Washington to beg money which they are not going to get. A report by Jane Perlez in the ‘New York Times’ dated 1st May 2011 said that:
‘The Kerry-Lugar aid plan for Pakistan is “floundering because Washington’s fears of Pakistani corruption and incompetence have slowed disbursal of the money. Quoting the US Government Accountability Office, only $179.5 million of the first $1.5 billion of the five-year programme had been disbursed by December 2010.’
The above script speaks that how serious we are in using that aid. Now the ending words:
Taking light from Anees Jillani, referring to the ‘Dawn’ of 14th October 2009, the Kerry-Lugar Bill was passed by the US Congress and not by the Majlis e Shoora; it was not easy if not altogether impossible to get it modified. It became American law after President Obama’s signature; we were not able to stop that process. However, we as a nation could at least do one thing; should have refused the aid.
Trying to be a democratic nation, Pakistan in its own entity, would not disagree with the ‘lessons’ given in the bill through conditions. Pakistan should remain committed to eliminating terrorism, whether domestically or externally [stop thinking India or Afghanistan or China or Philippines]. There should not be any terrorist base in the country, whether in Muridke or Quetta or Southern Punjab or Karachi. The military should desist from interfering in the country’s political process on all pretexts; but dictation from any quarter, any power or forum should not be accepted. This would hurt nation’s ego, dignity and sovereignty, and would be an insult to millions of Pakistanis.
Don’t accept American aids, military or civil, yes if possible borrow or buy their thinking: US President, Theodore Roosevelt, had once said: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far.’