US bill seeks to revoke Pakistan’s major ally status

WASHINGTON: Two US lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill in Congress, seeking to revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally (MNNA).

The movers also argue that since Pakistan has failed to effectively fight terrorism, it no longer deserves US economic and military assistance.

The focus of the bill, however, is on revoking the MNNA status, which was granted to Pakistan in 2004 by then President George W. Bush to encourage Islama­bad to help the United States fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. If passed, the legislation will greatly hurt military to military relations between the two countries.

The status grants critical benefits in foreign aid and defence cooperation, as a major non-Nato ally is eligible for priority delivery of defence material and expedited arms sale process. The designated country also benefits from a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports.

A major non-Nato ally can also stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes, and can buy sophisticated weaponry.

“Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands,” said Republican Congressman Ted Poe, who introduced the bipartisan bill with Congressman Rick Nolan, a Democrat.

Mr Poe, who is a member of the foreign affairs committee and serves as chairman of the subcommittee on terrorism, non-proliferation and trade, said that for years, Pakistan has acted as “a Benedict Arnold ally of the United States,” referring to an 18th century American general who defected to the British army.

“From harbouring Osama bin Laden to backing the Taliban, Pakistan has stubbornly refused to go after, in any meaningful way, terrorists that actively seek to harm opposing ideologies,” said Mr Poe, who always plays a leading role in sponsoring anti-Pakistan legislation. His moves are usually rejected by other lawmakers. And the continued presence of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan can prevent Congress from passing this bill as well, because the United States still uses Pakistan’s land route for supply for its troops.

Pakistan also has deployed tens of thousands of troops along the Afghan border and more than 6,000 Pakistani soldiers have died fighting the extremists in the border area.

But such sacrifices had little impact on the movers of the bill.

“We must make a clean break with Pakistan, but at the very least, we should stop providing them the eligibility to obtain our own sophisticated weaponry in an expedited process granting them a privileged status reserved for our closest allies,” Mr Poe said.

Backing his Republican colleague, Cong­ressman Nolan said, “Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America’s goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States.”

Urging Washington to stop supporting Pakistan, he said that the billions of dollars the US has sent to Pakistan over the last 15 years have done nothing to effectively fight terrorism and make us safer.

“It is time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan has ties to the same terrorist organisations which they claim to be fighting,” he said. “The legislation will protect American taxpayer dollars and make the US and the world safer.”

The two lawmakers reminded the Trump administration that last August, then-Secretary of Defence Ash Carter withheld $300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2017

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