Washington: Pakistan is poised to get eight F-16 fighter jets from the US after the Senate rejected a resolution to block the $700 million proposed sale despite objection by some top lawmakers who called Islamabad an "unreliable" ally and questioned its commitment in fighting terrorism.
The joint resolution, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul, a former Republican presidential candidate, asking the lawmakers to block the sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan was defeated by 71 to 24 votes.
To the surprise of many, such a resolution got the support of 24 Senators which is quite significant given that similar motions of disapprovals in the past normally gets support of a few or a handful of lawmakers. India has opposed the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets worth approximately $700 million to Pakistan, saying it disagrees with Washington's rationale that such arms transfers would help combat terrorism. Before his resolution was defeated by the Senate, Paul said the US does not have the money to "give planes free" to Pakistan while the country is crumbling under a foreign debt of $19 trillion.
"We do not have the money to give to Pakistan," said Paul starting the debate on the sale of F-16 to Pakistan. "Should we give planes to a country who prison our heroes," Paul said, referring to the imprisonment of Pakistani-American doctor, Shakeel Afridi, who has been jailed on charges of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden. Senator Chris Murphy, Ranking Member of Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counter-terrorism, alleged that Pakistan has been an "unreliable partner" over the course of the last ten years in the fight against extremism.
"But what I worry more is that these F-16s will provide cover, will provide substitute for truly meaningful action inside Pakistan to take on the roots of extremism. It is frankly too late in many respects to beat these extremist groups if they are so big, so powerful, so deadly that you have to bomb them from the air," he said.
The debate and voting was held a day after Pentagon commanders appealed to the lawmakers against restricting or conditioning US aid to Pakistan. The voting came as Paul invoked the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 in a bid to shoot down the sale with a resolution of disapproval.
"The relationship between US and Pakistan has been a troubled one. Though the government of Pakistan is considered America's ally in the fight on terrorism, Pakistan's behaviour would suggest otherwise. While we give them billions of dollars in aid, we are simultaneously aware of their intelligence and military apparatus assisting the Afghan Taliban," Paul said.
"In addition to Pakistan's duplicitous nature, it also has a deplorable human rights record. Pakistan often isolates and unjustly jails religious minorities and Christians like Asia Bibi," he said. "We have no money in the treasury. We are all out of money. This influences nothing other than to tell the Pakistanis they can continue doing what they want. I urge my colleagues to vote against subsidised sales of fighter jets to Pakistan, and I reserve the remainder of my time," Paul said for which he received support of 24 Senators.