Pak-US ties: Correcting the trajectory

Muhammad Ashraf Azim

THE spin seems to have put it out of its’ course. The recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) imbroglio in Paris is the best example of the direction, after suspension of US foreign aid to Pakistan. The US pressure to put Pakistan back to the financing terrorism and anti money laundering watch list was an unequivocal sign of its’ ire. The docile collaboration for the move by France, Germany and Britain was the height of the momentum. Most of the thirty-seven members of FATF wilted under the pressure despite Pakistan’s trusted friend’s pushback. Pakistan, at the best got the reprieve till June for reordering mechanisms to the satisfaction of the group during the interregnum.
The Pakistan high-level functionaries, having the full backing and support from various organs of the government, tried their utmost to block the move. Even the Foreign Minister hastened to chuckle of its victory and the US failure, in his tweet, just after the initial FATF session. But the game plan was obvious. The move was destined to It’s purported objective. Indians created a lot of hullabaloo on the FATF meeting outcome. Resultantly, the Karachi stock market got an instant hit of nearly six hundred fifty points. The long-term impact could be painful for the country, to say the least.
Pakistan, despite being a major non-NATO ally, was put in the FATF watch list from 2012 to 2015 and it goes to the credit of Pakistan that it was taken off the list as it followed the financial mechanism suited to the groups’ regime. The situation has chemically changed since Trump’s election victory in 2016 has brought a sea change in the US Pakistan relations. Even before the elections, Trumps’ inclination towards India was quite evident. There was a great ambivalence towards a nuclear Islamic Pakistan. He spoke of it at many occasions, only we did not listen to it. And we probably followed the US presidential race with an expectation of a Democratic victory and continuation of Obama’s’ policies.
Did we make an effort to engage with both the camps equally intensely to keep our diplomatic options and advantage in place? And what did we do to engage with the Trump administration through diplomatic, political and different tiers of the government? There would be many a questions that would not get satisfactory answers. The most important activity could have been engaging with the US Congress. The five hundred and thirty five members of the American legislature could make or break the US government. They can shut it down, as they did recently and many a times in the past. The US President is considered to be the most powerful person on this earth but only if the members of the Congress agree to it. They can clip the wings of the president if he tries to fly against their will. Lobbying the Congress is the most productive and fruitful exercise that we have rarely embarked upon in the past. It is the Congress that approves, modifies rejects a foreign aid bill proposed by the US administration. Having sympathetic listeners in the Senate and the House of Representatives could modify the US Presidents’ stance towards other countries.
The August 2017 speech by Trump, outlining US strategy towards our region, in the presence of its’ elite military gathering, should have been an eye opener and a clear signal of the coming events. Did we ignore that declaration of American intent? To all probability, we did. And to sum it all, the New Year tweet by Trump should have shaken every soul in the high echelons of our foreign policy royalty. The FATF has come more than a year after the Trump inauguration. Pakistan has already demonstrated its’ best of intentions and firm actions fighting terrorism in its’ many bastions of financial, material and logistical support. But we have lagged far behind on diplomatic and political fronts. The best of our intentions and the best of our actions have fallen victim to a shortsighted strategy and vision impairment. Its’ never too late to correct the trajectory!
— The writer is former congressional fellow US Congress.

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