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Kerry-Lugar Bill

Sunday, September 27, 2009
Are all stakeholders on board?

By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON: Pakistani officials, diplomats and spokespersons do not consider the otherwise mind-boggling conditions included in the just passed Kerry-Lugar aid bill in the US Senate as of any serious significance but they are not prepared to state on record that all Pakistani stakeholders, the Army, the intelligence agencies, the people of Paki

stan, have been taken into confidence, or even told before hand, that such conditions were being imposed.

The Secretary of State has to issue a certificate on these sensitive subjects before each instalment of the US aid is to be disbursed and Pakistanis are wondering how all, or any, of these conditions will be met, if at all.

The Secretary of State, under the direction of the president, has to certify to the appropriate congressional committees that:

1. the Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks;

2. the Government of Pakistan during the preceding fiscal year has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups, consistent with the purposes of assistance described in section 201, including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as:

(a) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries;

(b) preventing al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries, closing terrorist camps in the Fata, dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets; and

(c) strengthening counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws; and

(3) the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.

Pakistani officials, including ISPR spokesman Major General Athar Abbas and Ambassador Husain Haqqani, were tight-lipped and diplomatic when The News approached them with the crucial questions whether the conditions listed in the Kerry-Lugar Bill had been discussed, accepted or met by the Pakistani institutions as they looked almost impossible to deliver.

General Athar Abbas told Muhammad Ahmed Noorani of The News in Islamabad that the Army was going to send its views about these conditions to the Foreign Ministry and they would respond to these questions. While this response of the ISPR was "politically correct" it did carry a discreet impression that the Army may not have been taken on board until now. If these conditions were known to the GHQ, they would have already sent their response to the relevant civilian quarters and Gen Abbas would not have to say that they will do so now.

When Ambassador Husain Haqqani was asked the same question by me whether these conditions had been discussed with the concerned Pakistani quarters, his response was that the foreign minister, the foreign secretary and the FO spokesman are in New York and I should direct these questions to them. He would not take any question about his role or the role of the costly lobbyist in Washington because this apparently may be his ultimate failure.

Thus a deliberate stonewalling attempt is being made about who should be held responsible for agreeing to these conditions because although the language of these conditions is different in essence the US demands are the same "” give us AQ Khan, don't finger India, forget Kashmir, close the terror shops of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed and cooperate in the war on terror on our terms.

The more direct language against military intervention in political and judicial processes has apparently been added by the US legislators on the insistence of those Pakistanis who feel that the GHQ in Pindi is still creating hurdles in allowing the PPP to run its government as it likes, specially after the March 15 intervention to restore the judges, something which was taken as a direct affront to President Zardari who had over-committed himself not to restore the chief justice.

The new media strategy of the Pakistani side not to talk about these sensitive issues separately, but to let the Foreign Office speak about them may be a clever move but it will not answer the million questions and doubts being raised.

For instance Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit, who is in New York, when asked by me whether the Army and other institutions were on board, gave a fairly calculated and guarded response: "Basically this is not our decision and the Americans have drafted it but the Pakistan government has been in close touch with them. Acceptance of these conditions is not an issue as we have tried to convince them that such conditions do not work."

Asked whether the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies can deliver what the US side is asking for in terms of supporting extremists elements and groups, Basit said it was Pakistan's policy not to support these groups, so we have nothing to worry about.

Basit is sure that the certifications required are not inconsistent with or in conflict with the Pakistani policies. "We have no problem as these elements are part and parcel of our policies but if there are any perceptions or misperceptions on the US side, we will try to remove them," he said.

Asked about the clause which talks of ensuring that the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan, Basit tried to laugh it off, saying: "You know better than me what it means."

This lack of openness is likely to create more problems but some former senior diplomats in Washington and New York think these conditions will be a non-starter and actual flows of US aid will stay very low although the huge infrastructure to manage this aid will be created in Islamabad and which may then be used for any other purpose.

One diplomat, after reading the Kerry-Lugar Bill, said the entire concept of Reconstruction Zones in the Fata has been eliminated from the process which means that the US has given up on development in tribal areas, and the entire exercise for the last many years has come to a naught.

Apart from the "feel good" factor that US was supporting Pakistan, diplomats say the quantity of aid promised is so small that if a popular Pakistan president had asked the overseas Pakistanis for additional remittances, the Pakistani community would have sent over two billion more than the six billion they send, free of cost, every year.

But President Zardari and his aides are confident that they have conquered Washington and will return to Pakistan triumphant in the glory of becoming the darling of the West. "This is the misguided vision of a few bloated visionaries in the president's camp and they will soon find out the heat of these unacceptable conditions when they return to Pakistan," a disgruntled member of the Pakistani delegation said in confidence.


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