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Pakistan renews pledge to work for regional peace despite US aid suspension – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has renewed its pledge to continue efforts for peace and stability in the region despite suspension of US security assistance, but cautioned against unilateral actions.

In response to the US suspension of full spectrum of security aid package for Pakistan, the Foreign Office (FO) said: “We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region”.

Also read: US places Pakistan on a special watch list ‘for severe violations of religious freedom’

The latest US action follows President Trump’s New Year Day tweet chastising Islamabad for taking $33 billion in aid, but allegedly selectively acting against terrorist groups. It is believed that the US decision to suspend security assistance is the first in a series of coercive steps planned by it to force Pakistan into submission.

Emphasising the need for more cooperation, particularly against outfits like the militant Islamic State group, the FO called for “mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence” and said “arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats”.

In response to US suspension of security aid, FO says unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive

The FO said Pakistan was coordinating with Washington on its move to withhold security cooperation. “We are awaiting further details. Impact of US decision on pursuit of common objectives is also likely to emerge more clearly in due course of time,” the statement said.

American security assistance for Pakistan has been lacking transparency. However, open source information suggests it comprises the allocations under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF); Foreign Military Assistance; International Military Education and Training; non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, demining and related activities; Pakistan’s counter-insurgency capability; and counter-narcotics programmes. Coalition support has been the major contributor under this head even though it was a reimbursement of the costs incurred by Pakistan while supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was allocated $134 million under the security assistance head for 2018 in addition to around $900m in CSF reimbursements. However, the US has already been annually deducting $350m from CSF on the pretext of lack of certification by its defence secretary that Pakistan has acted against Haqqani Network.

Lately, the administration decided to withhold another $255m. Therefore, the actual impact of the aid and reimbursement suspension would be close to $500m.

Pakistan has received almost $23bn from 2002 to 2017 from the US under security assistance and CSF reimbursements.

The FO recalled that Pakistan had been undertaking the counter-terrorism operations out of its own pocket, which had over past decade and half cost it over $120bn.

“We believe that Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism has directly served US national security interests as well as the larger interests of international community,” it added as it recalled the decimation of Al-Qaeda in the region.

The FO regretted that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts were not matched by Afghan side in terms of “clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan”.

Religious freedoms

In another rejoinder to US designation of Pakistan in the ‘Special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom’, the FO said it did not follow objective criteria.

“This placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the US regarding its rationale and implications,” the FO said.

Pakistan is currently the only and the first country to be placed in this newly constituted category in the annual report of US Commission on International Religious Freedoms. The move comes amid aggravating Pak-US ties. The US administration has over the past few years been refusing to include Pakistan in a higher category of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’, which include Saudi Arabia, China and Iran.

“The designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights. Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom, under its Constitution,” the FO said and, in an allusion to India, pointed out that countries with known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities had not been included in the list.

“This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence (it) lacks credibility,” it maintained.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2018

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