Yesterday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley confirmed that United States’ administration will withhold $255 million in aid to Pakistan. This was just a day after President Trump’s first tweet of the year accusing Pakistan of lying to and deceiving the US despite receiving billions in foreign aid over past the 15 years while giving “safe haven to the terrorists”.
The $255 million in military aid was authorized in 2016 and put in escrow in August 2017. The money is being withheld in an attempt to correct Pakistan’s behavior regarding terrorism.
USA and Pakistan relations have been mixed, ranging from cordial and hostile, for decades. After the 9/11 attacks, their relations were strengthened as Pakistan was instrumental in counter-terrorism by supporting USA and Afghanistan in fighting Al Qaeda, who orchestrated the attacks and Taliban who sheltered the terrorists.
Pakistan has suffered countless terror attacks since then from the fleeing terrorists who took shelter in Pakistan and orchestrated terrorist attacks. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2016/17, their economy has suffered a whopping $123.1 billion cost on account of the loss of lives, economic opportunities and damage to the country’s infrastructure, ever since their support to the USA in the war on terrorism.
But relations have become strained in recent years. The historic Operation Neptune Spear, where the US Navy SEAL Team Six reportedly carried out the raid and killing of the Osama Bin Laden (9/11 Attack mastermind) after a decade-long manhunt, the US reportedly carried out without informing the Pakistani government in advance. Although there was no evidence to confirm, some American officials allegedly suspected Pakistani authorities of aiding shelter to Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In the light of President’s tweet, there were strong responses from Pakistani leaders mostly dismissing it as incomprehensible. In an interview Miftah Ismail, an adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic affairs stated that the numbers stated by President Trump were incorrect and “…About $14 billion of that $33 billion was part of coalition support fund, which was compensation for services rendered”. He further added, “Our billings were for $22 billion and we got only $14 billion. So we think the US owes us $8 billion”. According to Mr. Ismail, the aid was a tiny fraction of Pakistan’s GDP and “…not a great deal of money”
Now China has come forward to support Pakistan as the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang praised Pakistan’s “very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism” and called for the “international community to acknowledge that”.
China is currently investing heavily in Pakistan as part of the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), heavily objected by India as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. During the first-ever trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, held recently in Beijing, China, plans were announced by China to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan, which shares close ties with India.
So far the reaction from South Asian countries has been mixed depending on their own interests. But more can be ascertained only in the coming days. In the meanwhile, with Afghanistan, India and the US all criticizing Pakistan’s policies and actions regarding sheltering named terrorists and training camps, Pakistan may require considering filling the gaps in existing policies and stricter action.
Snigdha is a 'closet' writer with unapologetic opinions on life and people around her. She supports the cause of protecting endangered civil rights like free speech, equity, equality, and most importantly common sense.