March 30, 2018
President Trump Zeroes-in on Pakistan
By Saeed Qureshi
After announcing an unpredictable list of sanctions and issuing threats to a host of countries both friendly and unfriendly, President Trump is on the move to wreck the long-standing relationship between USA and Pakistan. President Trump’s attitude towards Pakistan has been hostile for many years even before assuming the presidency of the United States.
The Trump Administration is considering to revoke Pakistan's status of a major non-NATO ally and imposing political penalties on Islamabad for allegedly harboring Afghan extremist elements”, the US Foreign Policy magazine said in its report.
"Amid growing frustration on Capitol Hill, the Trump’s deputies are weighing unprecedented political penalties on Islamabad for harboring Afghan militants waging war on the US-backed government in Afghanistan," the report claimed. "We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect US personnel and interests in the region," the magazine quoted a senior administration official, who requested anonymity, as saying.”
Lately the US imposed sanctions on seven Pakistani companies over suspicion of having links to the nuclear trade, potentially hurting Pakistan’s ambitions to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The companies had been "determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States," the US Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce said in its report.
“The Trump administration is also considering to permanently cutting off the US military aid to Pakistan that was suspended two months ago. besides imposing of visa bans or other sanctions on Pakistani government individuals in on the table. The Trump Administration has already temporarily withheld the $255 million aid, which was part of a $1.1 billion aid package authorized in 2016 by Congress.”
This harsh and hostile attitude towards Pakistan has come up despite Pakistan’ long standing multi-pronged cooperation with USA. According to available figures “at least 60,000 people have been killed in Pakistan due to terror attacks since the beginning of the war on terror, while the economic losses have been measured at $120 billion. Since 2001, the country has also hosted millions of Afghan refugees who fled the war in Afghanistan.
If America ditches Pakistan unceremoniously, the vacuum is likely to be filled by China and Russia and other friendly countries in favor of Pakistan. Without involvement of the regional countries specifically Pakistan, America cannot attain its goals, if any, in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s logistic support is essential for any military operation against the Taliban and other similar factions.
Thus, Afghanistan would again turn into a battlefield destroying the internal and the regional peace. Without any retaliation from Pakistan, the Taliban and other militant groups would revive their insurgency freely, ferociously and unsparingly against both the American forces and the sitting dispensation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan in any case should not delve in Afghanistan internal affairs or be a party anymore to fight the Taliban. This turn of events and America’s anti- Pakistan attitude and policies would be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. Pakistan would be under no obligation to act as a mercenary for USA. At the same time the Taliban may get closer to Pakistan and discontinue or abandon their ruinous mayhem within Pakistan.
It has been seen that at the end of day, Pakistan gets a bad name as President Trump has hurled at Pakistan forgetting and overlooking what Pakistan did in Afghanistan and how much it suffered and how it is being humiliated under the new administration with Donald Trump as the president. Pakistan is a sovereign country and has the right to refuse to become the part and pawn in international rivalry between the bigger states.
“ Pakistan's role in the war on terror is a widely discussed topic among policy makers of various countries, political analysts and international delegates around the world. Pakistan has simultaneously received terrorists and commendation for its anti-terror efforts”.
If president Trump wants to put sanctions on Pakistan like he is doing with regard to many other countries including China and Soviet Union, let him go ahead with that decision. If such a tactic is to please India and pressure Pakistan to play the same role in Afghanistan as it has been doing in the past, let this counterproductive role be discarded for all time to come.
Pakistan is one country which has been playing as the second fiddle to America in curbing the terrorism in Afghanistan. I might differ with the term terrorism used for the religious bands and conglomerations fighting for the establishment and revival of the orthodox genre of Islam that was prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad and followed by his four pious successors or caliphs.
If hard conditions are imposed by President Trump then in that case, Pakistan can move towards the friendly Islamic countries and particularly China as well Soviet Union for a new relationship which would be more promising and profitable. I would suggest that notwithstanding the disliking and hostility of prime minister Modi, Pakistan should enhance its relations with India in the fields of cultural exchanges, mutual trade and business. Kashmir is a thorny issue but that can be resolved mutually and amicably by both the neighboring countries and not with the intervention of the third party.
Lately as part of her itinerary, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice G. Wells is in Pakistan. After her meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, it was emphasized that the US and Pakistan had a long track record of cooperation. Ambassador Wells emphasized the importance of working together to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. The two sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels. Hopefully, the ambassador Alice’s aspirations can also be shared by the Trump administration.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and former diplomat.