US officials assure Pakistan of continued provision of military equipment, assistance

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A two-member staff delegation of the United States (US) House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday assured Pakistani authorities of the US’ continued provision of military equipment and assistance with approval of the US Congress.

In a meeting with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, delegation members Kristen Marquardt and Sajit Gandhi reiterated US efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s counter-terrorism capacity and said the continued cooperation was a testimony to the strength of Pak-US bilateral relations.

The assurance comes just days after a BBC Urdu report, citing an unnamed senior US State Department official, said the US administration is withholding subsidy which was earmarked for Pakistan’s purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets.

The State Department official told BBC Urdu on condition of anonymity that the Obama administration is still willing to sell the fighter jets to Pakistan, but will not contribute US funds towards the deal.

The US administration took this step with directions from US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker because only Congress has the authority to dispense or withhold the funds, the official said.

As a result, Pakistan would have to foot the complete bill of $700 million for the eight fighter jets as opposed to just $270m as per the earlier arrangement, while the US would grant the remaining $430 million.

Fatemi formally conveyed Pakistan’s reservations and concerns over the reduction in US defence and civilian assistance to the two-member delegation. The congressional hold over already-approved funds was also deliberated during the meeting.

Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Fatemi particularly highlighted the lack of sufficient appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts towards counter-terrorism ─ a joint undertaking with the US administration.

Fatemi said more was expected from the US, who he termed “close aides and partners” who understand the nature and complexity of the challenges faced by Pakistan.

The delegation observed that expanding Pak-US cooperation in a number of sectors, including energy, economy, education, science, technology, law enforcement and strategic stability under the Pak-US Strategic Dialogue had put bilateral relations on sound footing.

Fatemi briefed the delegation on Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region alongside the US, China and Afghanistan through the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process. Pakistan had shown “utmost sincerity” in taking action against all terror outfits in the country, including the Haqqani network, in order to improve its relationship with India and contribute to the Afghan peace process, he said.

He said the government and people of Pakistan desired that Pakistan’s sincere efforts and sacrifices towards confronting security threats in an increasingly complex regional situation should be appreciated.

The delegation members, in their remarks, noted that US fully recognised that Pakistan has done a great deal in addressing various security challenges, primarily in its own interest.