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Pak swindling act

Global Geopolitics Net
Friday, July 04, 2008

© Copyright 2008 Malladi Rama Rao. All rights reserved.
Originally published in Syndacate Features.

By M RAMA RAO

New Delhi (Syndicate Features): It is rather baffling that despite repeated revelations about its deceitful practices to fleece and mislead its benefactors and authenticated chronicle of its half-hearted attempts to fight the ‘war on terror,’ Pakistan continues to be the largest recipient of US largesse. The latest confirmation of these charges comes from the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) findings presented on June 24.

An even more puzzling fact that has emerged is that the Americans had shut their eyes to even cases that were most easily detectable instances of swindling and fabrication. Pakistan, for instance, was paid $200 million in reimbursement for an air defence radar system when even the most ill informed would know that the Taliban and other terrorists who operate out of Pakistan have no aircraft in their otherwise well-stocked armoury. The radar system was installed on Pakistan’s eastern borders.

The US was also paying at one time nearly $ 4 million to Pakistan navy for repair and maintenance charges for a fleet of less than 20 ships—about $19000 per ship. The naval ships of Pakistan venture out into the high seas only to capture Indian fishermen. In any case, the Taliban neither possesses any maritime equipment nor has it shown interest in doing so though it is suspected to be keen on getting a couple of planes that can drop on infidel territories some of the stuff smuggled out of Pakistan by the latter’s ‘father of the nuclear bomb.’

An examination of the GAO report suggests that about $2 billion, a third of US funds given as reimbursement allegedly incurred by Pakistan for counter-terrorism expenses, was fraudulently claimed. These monies come from the Conflict Support Fund that saw the US disburse a total of $7 billion among 27 countries. The Pakistani artifice did not result in Washington taking some even remotely punitive action against Islamabad.

While a Congressional committee that went through the GAO finding was making some customary noises against the bilk-prone but still a ‘trusted’ US ally in the ‘war on terror’, the Bush administration was rushing through another tranche of aid to Pakistan—nearly $400 million. It was closely followed by the dispatch of updated F-16 fighter jets.

The GAO findings on Pakistan were first leaked in May, a month before the Bush administration had doled out its latest of many hefty aid packets that it regularly sends to Islamabad. After going through the report, John Tierney, the chairman of the US House oversight and government reform sub-committee on national security, was lamenting how Pakistan was wasting, playing ‘fraud’ and ‘abusing huge amounts of US taxpayers’ funds.’ To him it showed the ‘failure’ of the programme (that funded Pakistan) to achieve the vital US security objectives. It also showed how ‘incompatible’ was the long-term strategic partnership between the sole super power and the ‘front-line’ ally.

Some Americans use that as an excuse for advocating more cash, rather than military, aid to Pakistan for meeting social goals. The Pakistanis welcome that suggestion saying widespread illiteracy and poverty are solely responsible for the rise of religious extremism and terrorism in the country. But there should be no doubt that irrespective of the head under which Pakistan is given monetary aid it will all go to crank up its already bloated military machine—and to fight India.

Senator Tom Harkin is more blunt in his criticism of Pakistan. ‘It seems as though the Pakistan military went on a spending spree with US taxpayers’ wallet and no one bothered to investigate the charges’.

Such indictment of Pakistan at the hands of US lawmakers is becoming rather frequent as the level of frustration within the US against Pakistan’s dubious role in ‘war on terror’ becomes more and more evident. The frustration is greater in Pakistan’s western neighbour, which has to directly bear the brunt of increasing Taliban attacks originating from the Pakistani soil. The Afghan government has frequently said that Pakistan has no qualms about backing and providing safe havens to the Taliban. The Afghan intelligence chief has gone to the extent of saying that Pakistan army’s notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, was behind the abortive assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai in April 2008.

If the concern within the US against Pakistan’s unreliability and roguish behaviour is genuine, a logical consequence will have been a stricter control and supervision over the flow of aid—both cash and military hardware—to Pakistan. But nothing of the sort has happened nor is it likely to happen because of the belief in Washington that such moves would anger Pakistan more and, hence, make Pakistan even less enthusiastic about fighting the so-called ‘war on terror’, at a time most Pakistanis think the ‘war’ has been thrust upon them by the US. This line of argument, needless to say, is patently flawed as the developments in North Waziristan these days show.

India cannot remain indifferent or silent about the generosity shown towards Pakistan by successive US administrations. Many US Congressmen and Senators have—not for the first time—come to the conclusion that most US aid given to Pakistan for such purposes as opening schools, health centres and even updating some of the old military machines, actually goes towards bolstering Pakistan’s military’s capabilities to attack India. Of course, some of the money also goes to line the pockets of the greedy generals.

The US has known since the days of military pacts that Pakistan is actually addicted to blatant misuse of the aid that it receives. During Cold War Pakistan used the American military aid, ostensibly given to keep the Soviets at bay, to constantly modernize its military and attack the ‘enemy’. Pakistan is guilty of thrusting four wars on India though three of them, it still says, were attacks by tribals.

It is hard to imagine that there are people in Washington who are naïve enough to imagine that Pakistan has really said goodbye to its inbred hostility towards India. There may have been some visible improvement—no doubt welcome in itself--in the relations between the two countries in recent days but there is no radical departure in Pakistan’s overall policy towards India. Those who do not believe it have only to recall some of the statements made by the new civilian rulers and military generals on and about Kashmir.

There may be contradictory signals from the Indian government about the extent of help that infiltrators from across the border receive from the Pakistani army but there is no denying that it remains a reality. The bleed India policy has not been renounced by Pakistan. As troubles from the terrorists it had raised in the hope of using them to destroy India mount within Pakistan, it has started pointing fingers at India—and Afghanistan. Whatever be the domestic compulsions, this cannot be read as a sign that India-Pak relations are going to be ‘normal’ in the near future, certainly not when Islamabad has little problem in finding funds for buying all the latest war machines. (Syndicate Features)

---Syndicate Features

About the Author

Malladi Rama Rao is an analyst and writer on the Indian political scene and geo-political and security issues of South Asia. He directs a Weekly Feature Service in English, Syndicate Features, in colloboration with his wife Vaniram. He is also the India Editor of Asian Tribune.

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