Dangerous twirl in Pak-US ties

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Anti-Islamabad US move soon, following restrictions on seven Pak companies, complete ban on military aid and visa facility, action against ISI in offing. Islamabad’s nuclear status and ‘borders China’ strategic location forbidding Washington taking bold decisions; reports ‘Foreign Policy’ quoting informed sources

Nation special report
WASHINGTON: According to information being received from Washington, the United States is going to take serious steps against Pakistan in due course of time abandoning the mantra of ‘do more’ and the informed sources have been quoted that the US administration has decided to ‘to do themselves’ to tame and compel Islamabad to take effective measures against militants.
For the past six months, Washington has continuously put pressure on Islamabad in a bid to force the country into changing its regional security policy.
If a number of actions taken by Washington against Islamabad during the last few weeks are any indication, then it’s clear that Trump is willing to go to any lengths to extract cooperation from Pakistan.
A few days ago, the United States imposed sanctions on a number of Pakistani companies for allegedly engaging in nuclear trade.
Moreover, reports are coming out claiming that the Trump administration is exploring a range of new options, including “revoking the country’s major non-NATO ally status, permanently cutting off military aid and imposing a visa bars [sic] on Pakistani government officials,” to pressure Pakistan into acting against various militant groups. The sources referred that the relations between the United States and Pakistan, which began to strain in 2011, reached a new low in January when President Donald Trump suspended US security assistance to Islamabad over the alleged presence of Afghan militant groups in Fata. Pakistan rejects the charge as incorrect and says that it has eliminated all terrorist hideouts from Fata. The latest information suggests that the Trump White House is divided over how to deal with Pakistan, with some officials favouring a hard line approach and others warning against alienating a nuclear armed country of 200 million people, the US media reported on Tuesday.
The divide — reported by the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine — is reflected in recent statements by US officials who continue to urge Pakistan to do more for eliminating terrorism but also acknowledge that Pakistan has taken “some positive steps in the right direction”.
According to the report, the hardliners argue that years of aid and accommodation with Pakistan “have produced little in return” and now is the time for some “punitive actions”. Those urging caution point out that Pakistan is not only a nuclear nation but also has a strategic location — “borders China” — and that’s why it would be a mistake to alienate it. But some in the administration believe that recent punitive actions — such as the suspension of security aid — have had a positive impact on Pakistan and urge the Trump administration to keep up the pressure.
“We’ve certainly seen Pakistan take some positive steps in the right direction,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a recent news briefing. Foreign Policy magazine suggests Pakistan could lose its major ally status under a string of political penalties being considered by the US against Islamabad for harbouring A f g h a n militants. Other options being considered by the Trump administration include permanently cutting off US military aid and imposing visa bans or other sanctions on members of the Pakistani government, the report said. The report described the possible political penalties as “unprecedented.”

Qamar Cheema

According to the Foreign Policy report, punitive measures include visa bans, a permanent cut in military aid, and action against the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), which the US suspects allows militants to “operate from sanctuaries inside Pakistan.” Relations between the two allies soured following the US unveiling of its Afghan and South Asia policy last year that was highly critical of Pakistan’s role in eradicating terrorism. Some US officials caution against breaking ties with a nuclear-armed Pakistan that is heavily dependent on Chinese investment to stabilize its economic future. However, changes in the Trump administration, with a new national security adviser and expected appointment of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, “could tilt the discussion in favor of tougher measures against Islamabad,” suggested the Foreign Policy report. Last week, the US Bureau of Industry and Security imposed sanctions on seven Pakistani firms supposedly engaged in nuclear trade, a move that severely hinders Pakistan’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
A US co-sponsored move in February convinced the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering to place Pakistan back on its “grey list” of “jurisdictions with deficient anti money laundering regimes.” Pak Foreign Office Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said it had been “consistently reminding its US interlocutors about series of successful military operations undertaken in the border areas with Afghanistan. “Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to fight this menace is recognized. It is in Pakistan’s interest as much as that of the others,” the Foreign Office said. Qamar Cheema However, a foreign relations expert, Qamar Cheema, told Arab News the US risked weakening its own position in the region if it went ahead with the sanctions.
“If Pakistan loses its (non NATO) ally status, it will be hard for the country’s political and military elite to justify actions and support for US and that, in turn, would compromise and weaken the US position in the region.” Cheema fears that Islamabad will face a number of threats, including a return of drone strikes, if it fails to cooperate with Washington’s demands.
“Multilateral forums such as the IMF, UN, EU, and others where Pakistan is part of global system, will likely give it a hard time. Its ambition to join the NSG would be disrupted. More worse, Pakistan might be subjected to different sanctions,” he said. In January, Trump accused Islamabad of taking billions from America and, in return, giving “nothing but lies and deceit.” The US withheld $255 million from about $1 billion in assistance. The same month the US placed Pakistan on its “special watchlist for severe violations of religious freedom.”