Pakistan faces loss of ally status under ‘unprecedented’ US bans

Pakistan faces loss of ally status under ‘unprecedented’ US bans
In this file photo, Pakistani demonstrators burn an effigy of US President Donald Trump during an anti-US protest in Lahore on Jan. 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2018

Pakistan faces loss of ally status under ‘unprecedented’ US bans

Pakistan faces loss of ally status under ‘unprecedented’ US bans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could lose its major ally status under a string of political penalties being considered by the US against Islamabad for harboring Afghan militants, a report in Foreign Policy magazine suggests.
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.”
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.”
Speaking at a press briefing in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor sought to remind Capitol Hill of Pakistan’s importance as an ally and its continued sacrifices for peace.
“If Pakistan hadn’t played its pivotal role in history, the US and China wouldn’t have had rapprochement. If Pakistan hadn’t played a positive role in the world, the US wouldn’t have become the sole superpower and east and west Germany would have been remained separate,” he said.
Ghafoor said that “despite many contributions, if our contributions are viewed suspiciously and we are coerced to do more, this undermines our efforts. The regional and other power players need to take Pakistan on board so that the peace we have achieved after 15 years of war can be sustained and benefits the region."
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Ghafoor said: “The US is a superpower. There is no doubt. It plays that role in terms of security, politics and the economy in many regions. But the world is shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics. Viewing the issues in our region through the lens of geopolitics won’t resolve matters.”