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US lawmakers must provide initial aid to chaotic Pak without conditions: Expert

Lahore, May 6 (ANI): Pakistan is on the brink of chaos and is deteriorating, and in such a situation, the United States should be flexible enough in preventing that country from sinking into a political and lawless abyss dominated by Talibanisation, feels a Pakistani journalist.

According to Ahmed Rashid, who is also a fellow at the Pacific Council on International Policy and the author of “Descent Into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia,” the U.S. Congress should pass the emergency funds quickly and, at minimum, offer the first year of the 1.5 billion dollars without conditions to foster stability between the two sides.

He says that the speed and conditions with which Congress provides emergency aid to Islamabad will affect the Pakistani government and army’s ability and will to resist the Taliban onslaught. It will also affect America’s image in Pakistan and the region. Pakistanis are looking for evidence of the long-term U.S. commitment about which President Obama has spoken.

Describing the relationship between the two countries as being at a critical juncture, he says U.S. lawmakers should stipulate that aid for Pakistani and Western aid agencies involved in development, particularly agriculture, education and job creation, should not be conditioned.

Since Obama announced his strategic review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, worsening conditions here have nudged Afghanistan from the top of his foreign policy agenda. Pakistanis are beset by a galloping Taliban insurgency in the north that is based not just among Pashtuns, as in Afghanistan, but that has extensive links to al-Qaeda and jihadist groups in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan.

That means the Taliban offensive in northern Pakistan has the potential to become a nationwide movement within a few months. Violence is already spreading. 

The army’s recent counteroffensive against the Taliban was prompted in part by U.S. pressure and, more significant, by a dramatic shift in public opinion toward opposing the Taliban.

Many people are beginning to see the country threatened by a bloody internal revolution. This public pressure can lead to a major change in army policies toward India and Afghanistan, Rashid opines.

However, he says in his article in the Washington Post that the army and the civilian government still lack a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy as well as a plan to deal with the one million refugees who have fled the fighting.

“Certainly the United States can demand that its money be used for good purposes. The original Biden-Lugar bill introduced last year had the mix just right, setting down three strategic benchmarks — that Pakistan be committed to fighting terrorism, that Pakistan remain a democracy (in other words, the army must not seize control), and that both nations provide public and official accountability for the funds. Unlike the extensive conditions that lawmakers are seeking to impose now, such broad parameters would provide space for further negotiations and progress between Pakistan and the United States,” Rashid says.

U.S. flexibility to set a minimum of conditions that can be further negotiated once aid delivery begins could become a model for donors in Europe and Japan, he concludes. (ANI)

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