Negotiating Aid Package
Should Pakistan accept conditions attached to billions
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gillani may have done something historic by categorically declining to accept US aid with conditions that are not in Pakistan’s national interest. He, however, did not explain conditions that his government opposes.
When President Barack Obama appealed to the Congress
recently to pass the aid package he also warned that there will be no ‘blank’ checks for Pakistan. But he wasn’t sure what restrictions will be proposed by the House legislation. And, neither was Pakistan. Subsequently, the House has proposed aid bill. On surface the proposed conditions look reasonable:
1. Limit the kinds of military equipment Pakistan could receive,
2. the ways in which it could be used, and
3. Require regular audits and presidential certification of counterinsurgency progress.
And, if Pakistan agrees to these conditions (on a high level), Congress is willing to authorize $3 billion in aid to train and equip the Pakistani military over the next five years, along with $7.5 billion in economic and development assistance. In addition, the Obama administration has also requested $2 billion in a supplemental war-funding to be spent in Pakistan over next four years.
These are not chum changes- and Pakistan is in dire financial need. So why is Pakistani Prime Minister posturing like a Punjabi film hero produced in Lollywood (Lahore)? Some would argue through this funding the US wants to transform Pakistan’s army from one that is ready to face India in traditional warfare to a leaner and flexible institution that can fight insurgents and terrorists. Secondly, Pakistan is being told not to spend funds to build up Army to fight against India. And, third (most importantly) Pakistan is being asked by the donor that it will be subject to audits.
Congress wants to monitor Pakistani progress in defeating extremists and protecting human rights. Congress also wants to prohibit additional U.S. spending on Pakistan's F-16 jet fighter fleet, which the Bush administration agreed to upgrade. It is argued that the planes are part of Pakistan's defense strategy against India and have no use in counterinsurgency efforts against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
Together these seemingly innocent requirements not only challenge Pakistan’s most powerful institution but also open a plethora of diplomatic issues. What metrics can Congress use to determine that extremists are being defeated and human rights is not violated? Should Pakistan be reimbursed for the loss of capital in sale of F-16s (not in soybeans)?
One can understand why these conditions are difficult for Pakistan.
But America’s frustration is also understandable. Bush administration spent more than $5 billion to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and several years later had nothing to show for. They had very few, if any, controls on the monies spent. It is widely accepted in Washington DC that money was diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban. And, that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.
The $5 billion was provided through a program known as Coalition Support Funds, which reimbursed Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism. Under a separate program, Pakistan received $300 million per year in traditional American military financing that pays for equipment and training. American legislators have the right to understand where did all of the money go?
But, at the same time these negotiations must be managed from both side of the spectrum. Pakistan does not see this as aid- rather there is a sense of entitlement: Pakistan is fighting America’s war therefore, we deserve a better deal.
I am confident that both of the parties will be open to reason and yield to principle, not pressure