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Islamabad

February 4, 2016

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Pakistan must opt for a chooser status

The US strategy in this region after hyphenating Afghanistan and Pakistan together under the 'Af-Pak' jargon has brought more agony and flux to millions of people of both countries rather than bringing enduring peace and stability as wrongly propagated by the US-led West. The slang of Af-Pak now appears to had been coined for perpetuating the chorus of 'do more' from Pakistan and for sustainability of this unending stipulation, last week's State of Union address by the US president is a writing on the wall that needs to be examined, comprehended and measured by Pakistan's policymakers without further delay; otherwise scores of APSs (16 Dec 2014) and BKUs (20 Jan 2016) in addition to Salala's (26 Nov 2011) are waiting to further traumatize Pakistanis not in a far distant future despite knitting of a genre of National Action Plan. Since the start of the new year, Pakistan has been battered by five militant attacks, most of them targeting innocent civilians as well as security forces. Such attacks had significantly decreased last year, with the Pakistan military saying it made great strides in crushing the violence, this has probably vexed the American-led West.

Americans have skillfully been using each type of 'support' to Pakistan that included financial, technical and capacity enhancement programmes in a variety of orbits, including political and military spheres, as levers of exploitation for long (the infamous Pressler Amendment triggered sanctions against Pakistan in 1990s). This leverage took centre stage of exploitation particularly with regard to monitory or financial support specifically related to counter terrorism operations in Pakistan in later years, Kerry Lugar amendment and use of Lehy Law etc are significant to mention here. USG hawks or doves equally have been raising voices for the germane use and accountability of their tax payers money that has allegedly been spent deceptively on countering terrorism by Pakistan. In the past as well as recent media reports both in the US and Pakistan have been shrieking about slashing of  financial support to Pakistan especially on account of Coalition Support Fund, popularly known as CSF, under which the USG claims to have provided more than 13 billion dollars (as much as one-fifth of Pakistan’s military expenditures since 9/11) to Pakistan since inception of Operation Enduring Freedom; this fact has also been confirmed by the Defence Minister of Pakistan while informing the Parliament the other day. According to several other reports, the United States government has not certified Pakistan’s most successful counter-terrorism operation namely Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan over recent months as adequately damaging to the Haqqani network, a US-designated terror group which has long ago shifted its miscellany to Afghanistan soon after commencement of operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 and now working against Pakistan using Afghan soil.

According to fresh media reports, that have been deliberately floated in domestic and American media about stopping of a substantial amount on account of CSF, that the US Department of Defence has reportedly notified the Pakistani embassy in Washington of the development, as reported earlier by daily Dawn. The non-certification of the Pakistani counter-terror campaign, known as Operation Zarb-e-Azb, has almost blocked the release of a new tranche of US financial assistance for the Pakistani military from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) at a time when Pakistan Armed forces chief himself  has announced that 2016 will be the year of culmination of war against all types of terrorists. Interestingly CSF support had been extended for a year in 2014 with a specific stipulation that the US Department of Defence would certify the effectiveness of Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network. The US government should be well aware that Pakistan's security forces have been able to bring inclusive peace to a most volatile region of NWA which has remained a tipping point as well as a daunting challenge for the universally acknowledged and exhibited prowess of Americans and their NATO partners since their arrival to the region in 2001.

There seems to prevail a paranoia within American and NATO/ISAF coalition in addition to Asia Pivot notoriety India, that the decade long and a trillions of dollars cost task of defeating terrorism left unaccomplished by a group of global powers has been pulled off with a few million dollars by Pakistan's security structure. This success is becoming major reason that most of the TTP and American leadership has driven a major wedge between the United States and Pakistan, two allies who have grown together over their convergent interests and priorities in stabilising the Afghan-Pakistan border. Beyond the financial implications of the blocked CSF tranche, this development is being used to deal Islamabad a politically damaging blow.  Given the recent impasse in ties with Kabul amid allegations from the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, that Pakistani has inadequately reigned in cross-border terrorists, including militants affiliated with the Haqqani network, the US government’s decision to withhold certification vindicate wrongly expressed Afghan perceptions.

The old mantra of the US to ‘do more’ despite what Pakistan has achieved indiscriminately targeting terrorists in the past year ever since the commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, it nevertheless inevitably finds that even appreciation comes with a degree of blame. Pakistan's people at the helm of affairs must realise the lethality of accepting financial support that follows bombardment of accusations and terror incidents like the recent one in Charsadda, and should now need to decide turning a permanent back towards such a support instead concentrate on the success of CPEC in addition to TAPI and IPI.

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