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'Pakistan is NOT America's friend'

Last updated on: November 4, 2011 10:56 IST

Image: US President Barack Obama with Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani
Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC

It's high time to completely rethink the United States relationship with Pakistan because of Islamabad's continuing perfidy of sponsoring terror groups like the Haqqani network and Lakshar-e-Tayiba that targets American troops and kills innocent civilians like the LeT did during the 26/11 attacks, said US Congressman Gary Ackerman, a top democrat in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on South Asia.

"There's an old saying, well known to all of us, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. Unfortunately, this is nonsense," he said at a Congressional hearing convened by the subcommittee on Afghanistan and Pakistan. And argued, "the enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy, that's it. There are no implied obligations or warranties. International politics has no freebies."

"To state what should be obvious, but somehow is not: Pakistan -- meaning both the nominally democratic civilian government and the unelected but ultimately decisive Pakistani military establishment -- is not our friend," said the New York lawmaker, who has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee for more than two decades.

"They are not our allies; they are not our partners; they are not on our team; they are not on our side. And no matter how much aid we give them, no matter what military capabilities we provide them, and no matter what promises, assurances or pledges we make to them, these facts are not going to change," he added.


'75 pc of Pakistan feels US is source of their problems'

Image: Students hold up anti-American placards during a rally in Lahore

According to him, Pakistan is on its own side. Notwithstanding the considerable number of Pakistanis who'd like to try life in the United States, or the great success story of the many truly loyal Pakistani-Americans who have done so and contribute so much to their new country, 75 per cent of Pakistanis in Pakistan have an unfavorable opinion of the US and believe it is the source of that country's problems, he said.

"That's just a little piece of what $22 billion of our taxpayer's money has bought us since 2002 in Pakistan," he added. "A considerable part of those funds have also enhanced Pakistan's nuclear weapons delivery capability, notwithstanding neither our non-proliferation laws nor the purported limitations we've insisted upon with regard to the F-16 fighter bombers we've sold them."

 Ackerman, who is one of the most cerebral foreign policy experts in the US Congress said, acknowledged that there was simply no question that Pakistan has been a critical facilitator of America's campaign to drive the Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and to dismantle and eliminate it's capacity to conduct worldwide terrorist operations.

'Pak's been critical in delivering justice to key Al Qaeda figures'

Image: A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website taken May 2, 2011 shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased

"Pakistan's tacit cooperation has also been essential to our efforts to help establish an independent, democratic government in Afghanistan," he said. "The bulk of the fuel, ammunition and other supplies for our troops are sent through Pakistan. Critical counter-terrorist assets of ours depend on Pakistani cooperation to operate effectively. Pakistan has been critical to the apprehension and delivery to justice of key figures in the Al Qaeda."

Thus, he reiterated that there's no denying that Pakistan was essential.

"But Pakistan is also perfidious, and that's our problem in a nutshell," Ackerman asserted and pointed out that "while cooperating with the US, Pakistan has also been a critical facilitator of the Taliban and other violent, radical jihadist organisations attacking our troops, seeking to undermine the Afghan government, and conducting terrorism against our allies."

"These facts are no secret. One need not have access to classified information to know the details of Pakistan's partnership with violent religious extremists, one only needs access to newspapers and magazines," he added.

'No secret that Afghan Taliban is based in Quetta'

"It is not a secret that the Afghan Taliban has been based in Quetta, Pakistan, since Afghan and US forces drove them out of Afghanistan in 2002. Quetta is not an especially big city and the Taliban presence isn't even particularly discrete. From Quetta, the leadership of the Taliban, every day, is orchestrating attacks on the Afghan government and our troops," he said.

The Congressman pointed out that it was no a secret that the Haqqani network was responsible for numerous attacks on the Afghan government and the US troops. It is not a secret that the Lashkar e-Tayiba, which was responsible for the horrific November 2006 massacre of civilians in Mumbai, an attack that clearly implicated the Pakistani military, operates openly in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan has made no effort to interfere, disrupt, arrest, or shut down any of these groups or their activities, he said.

"It is no secret that Osama bin Laden was living comfortably in Abbottabad. Pakistan insists it had no knowledge or complicity in his presence there. I'd like to think that if the most wanted criminal in the history of criminals purchased a sizable parcel of land and built a secure compound less than a mile from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, just 32 miles from our capital, we would know about it," he said.

 Thus Ackerman reiterated, "Pakistan is not our pal, our buddy or our chum. It is a sovereign state pursuing its own self-defined interests in what it perceives to be a tough neighbourhood, but they help make it tough. And to state yet another obvious fact, Pakistan's self-defined national interests have very limited overlap with our own. In that small area where their interests and ours converge, we can and do cooperate."

'Very little standing in way of declaring Pak a terror state'

Image: Firefighters extinguish a burning vehicle which was set ablaze by MQM protesters in Karachi

He pointed out that currently, the United States had designated Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba as state sponsors of terrorism under US laws. Such a designation requires a ban on arms-related exports and sales; strict controls over exports of dual-use items; a prohibition on economic assistance and imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

"But for our genuine need for cooperation in the campaign against the Al Qaeda," he said, "there appears to be very little standing in the way of designating Pakistan as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Very, very, very little."

Ackerman said, "It's time to wake up from the naive and sentimental dream that there is friendship and broad cooperation, and accept reality. Pakistan's national interests are generally contrary to ours and those of our actual allies, and they pursue those contrary interests through the use of violent proxies and terrorism. That's not going to change."

He argued that as a result, "It's time for our policy and our assistance to come back into relation with reality instead of fanciful expectation. Paying Pakistan to kill bad guys makes sense. Bribing Pakistan -- that's what our aid really is -- for license and cooperation in our efforts to kill the bad guys is also reasonable. But we need to rid ourselves of the absurd notion that we can change Pakistan, reform its government, or create real trust."

"We have neither the capacity nor the capability, and we certainly don't have the spare billions to keep throwing away on these fool's errands. No more magical thinking. It's time to grow up and deal with Pakistan as it is, not as we hope or wish it to be," he concluded.