Imran Khan government faces first challenge as anti-US sentiment rises in Pakistan after aid cut

NEW DELHI: Even as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is set to visit Islamabad on Wednesday, the US’s plan to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan threatens to derail the visit with one Pakistani senator saying PM Imran Khan shouldn’t meet Pompeo and a prominent newspaper’s editorial saying the “US has delivered an object lesson in how not to conduct diplomacy.”
The opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senator Raza Rabbani told newspaper Dawn that protocol demands that the prime minister should not meet Pompeo, because whenever a Pakistani Prime Minister visited the US, he was not received by the US President.
The PPP leader said that despite “a number of sacrifices” rendered by Pakistan for peace in the region, the US was constantly asking it to do more.
“Not only the US has advised the International Monetary Fund not to give loan to Pakistan, but it also ended military training programme,” said Rabbani, referring a to a recent US communication to the Fund saying helping Pakistan basically amounted to benefitting China.
Influential newspaper Dawn, in an editorial on Tuesday, said the aid cut “will rankle” and added, “rightly so”.

The aid cut “…will surely rankle in Pakistan and rightly so: more than the aid, it is the hectoring and aggressive tone of the Trump administration towards Pakistan combined with an apparent disregard for a peace process in Afghanistan that is a problem,” said Dawn in an editorial.
The editorial wondered if Pompeo has been deployed to be the “good cop” in a ‘good cop-bad cop’ US move.
“The move (to cut aid) has surely been coordinated across the Trump administration and now what remains to be seen is if secretary Pompeo will try and bully the Pakistani leadership during his visit or if he will be deployed in a more traditional good-cop diplomatic role,” said the Dawn editorial.
The Pentagon announced in January that it was suspending aid, known as coalition support funds (CSF), to Pakistan, and subsequently the US Congress cancelled $500 million in such aid. But the Pentagon did not take final steps on the $300 million until this summer, reported news agency Associated Press (AP).

‘Pak inaction on terror’ says US
A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner, said on Sunday that the planned cancellation is “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of” the US strategy for bringing the Afghan conflict to a political solution, reported AP.
Following this announcement Sunday from the Pentagon, Pakistan’s new foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi insisted this isn’t “aid” that the US is considering cancelling, reported newspaper Dawn.
“This is not an aid of any kind that can be suspended. This is actually the payment of expenses incurred by us during the war against terrorism…The Pakistan Army and people have sacrificed a lot…,” said Qureshi on Sunday.
The Pakistani foreign minister further said that the matter will be discussed with US secretary of state Pompeo when he visits Pakistan on Wednesday.
CSF were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by US President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit,” reported news agency Reuters, which added that US officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behaviour.

US defense secretary Jim Mattis could have authorized the $300 million in CSF funds to Pakistan if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after terrorists. Mattis chose not to, a US official who wasn’t named told Reuters.
Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri told Pakistani newspaper The News that the American decision is typical of the Trump administration’s approach.

If it was meant to arm-twist, browbeat and send a message to Pakistan, it is a very crude way,” said Kasuri, adding that while the Trump administration was building a strategic partnership with India, its relationship with Pakistan was merely “transactional” and little more than that.
Another Pakistani senator, Mushahid Hussain, said on Sunday that the US plan to cancel $300 million in coalition support funds for Islamabad “is a sop to India” and a decision that will undermine the visit this week of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Hussain, who heads the foreign affairs committee in Pakistan’s senate, further believes the US decision is designed to strengthen a front against China, which is avowedly Islamabad’s ‘all-weather friend’.

“American stoppage of $300m Coalition Support Funds (CSF) undermines Pompeo visit to Islamabad & is a sop to India as he seeks to solidify Indo-US front against Pakistan’s best friend, China; earlier, $500m CSF was stopped, all this is money owed to Pakistan by US, NOT aid!” tweeted Hussain