US aid threat dis­missed by Pak­istan

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Ha­roon Jan­jua Islamabad Ju­lian Borger Washington

Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ter, Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi, has de­clared him­self mys­ti­fied by US threats to cut off fund­ing, say­ing that US fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance was “very, very in­signif­i­cant” and that Pak­istan was “on the fore­front of the war on ter­ror”.

In an in­ter­view with the Guardian, Ab­basi said re­ports that the US was con­sid­er­ing cuts of up to $2bn in se­cu­rity as­sis­tance were be­wil­der­ing be­cause the to­tal aid Pak­istan – civil­ian and mil­i­tary – ac­tu­ally re­ceived was a tiny frac­tion of that amount.

Ab­basi said in his Islamabad of­fice: “The aid in the last five years at least has been less than $10m a year. It is a very, very in­signif­i­cant amount. So when I read in the pa­per that aid at the level of $250m or 500 or 900 has been cut, we at least are not aware of that aid.”

Don­ald Trump used his first tweet of 2018 to threaten to with­hold aid to Pak­istan be­cause of what he called its “lies and de­ceit” over ter­ror­ism, claim­ing: “They give safe haven to the ter­ror­ists we hunt in Afghanistan, with lit­tle help.” The pres­i­dent has said that the US had “fool­ishly” given Pak­istan $33bn over the past 15 years.

Ac­cord­ing to the US Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, the US gave $778m to Pak­istan in as­sis­tance in 2016, of which 35% was mil­i­tary and the rest eco­nomic. The threat­ened move – de­signed to force Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus to cut sup­port for the Tal­iban and other Is­lamist groups – would in­clude both US mil­i­tary as­sis­tance and Afghanistan coali­tion fund­ing to Islamabad. A se­nior of­fi­cial, quoted by the French Press Agency, said it was “ap­prox­i­mately $2bn worth of equip­ment and coali­tion sup­port fund­ing that is in play”. The of­fi­cial added that “all op­tions are on the ta­ble” when it comes to fur­ther moves, in­clud­ing strip­ping Pak­istan of its sta­tus as a “ma­jor non-Nato ally”.

Ab­basi called the claim Pak­istan was har­bour­ing ter­ror­ists a “fal­lacy”. He said al­most 37,000 of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion had been killed. “There are tens of thousands of peo­ple in­jured. We have suf­fered a loss of over $120bn in our econ­omy.

“We just want the world to know that Pak­istan is on the fore­front in the war on this ter­ror … Pak­istan has won the war against ter­ror on its own ter­ri­tory.”

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