The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has reacted cautiously to the US cancellation of $300 million in aid to Pakistan, insisting the money is not assistance but reimbursements for the country’s expenses in fighting terrorism.
However, at a hurriedly-called news conference, the Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said the government had decided not to react in a knee-jerk manner. The guarded reaction came after consultations at the Foreign Office where other state institutions also gave their inputs on how to respond to the latest US move.
It was decided not to react strongly at this stage and instead wait for the visit of the US Secretary of State,Mr. Mike Pompeo, who is due in Islamabad on Wednesday. However, Mr. Qureshi politely reminded the US that the cancelled $300 million was not aid but the expenses Pakistan had incurred in the fight against terrorism.
'This is not aid. This is our money that we have spent in the fight against terrorism,' the minister insisted but stopped short of denouncing the US move. Instead, Qureshi said Pakistan would listen to the US concerns during the upcoming visit of Pompeo and added the government would also convey its concerns to the US administration as well.
Deviating from the pre-election rhetoric, Qureshi emphasised that the PTI government wanted good relationship with the US based on mutual respect and benefit. The carefully-worded statement amply demonstrated that the PTI government had realised that bravado would not work.
Other state institutions, with a say on such matters, are also believed to have advised the government not to resort to rhetoric. Give us three months to perform, Imran asks media.
Earlier, the Pentagon announced that it was canceling $300 million in aid to Pakistan for its lack of decisive action against militant groups. ‘Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,' Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.
Col. Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on 'other urgent priorities' if approved by Congress.He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.
The announcement, coming just days before the crucial visit of the secretary of state, suggests that the US administration apparently does not expect any concession from the new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The visit is already marred by a controversy over a telephonic conversation between Imran Khan and the secretary of state. The two sides issued divergent statements after the conversation.
Pakistan contested the State Department’s version that Pompeo had raised the issue of the presence of terrorist groups on the Pakistani soil with the new prime minister.