Washington: A joint resolution to block the sale of eight nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan has been introduced in the US House of Representatives, even as Secretary of State John Kerry defended the move, saying it is critical for Pakistan's fight against terrorism.
"The government of Pakistan has been using weapons from the US to repress its own citizens and especially the people of Baluchistan," Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said on Thursday after he introduced the resolution in the House of Representatives.
"The deciding factor of whether to support this joint resolution is, for me, the arrogant and hostile actions taken by the government of Pakistan against the man who helped bring Osama bin Laden to justice," Rohrabacher said.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration officially announced it would go ahead with the USD 700 million arms deal with Pakistan.
Alleging that Osama bin Laden was a "mass murderer" of 3,000 Americans on 11 September, 2001, Rohrabacher said anyone who helped bring him to justice is an "American hero".
"The government of Pakistan arrested Shakil Afridi and continues to hold him in a cage. The arrest was a declaration of hostility toward the United States," he said.
"Our government should not provide military equipment to Pakistan, let alone F-16s, as long as they are holding Afridi. His continued incarceration is an action which underscores that the government of Pakistan considers itself our enemy, not our friend," Rohrabacher said.
Kerry, however, strongly defended the decision arguing that these fighter jets are a "critical" part of Pakistan's fight against terrorists.
"The F-16s have been a critical part of the Pakistani fight against the terrorists in the western part of that country, and have been effective in that fight. And Pakistan has lost some 50,000 people in the last years, including troops, to the terrorists that are threatening Pakistan itself," Kerry told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
A day earlier, former Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul introduced the joint resolution in the Senate to block sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
The resolution (SJ Res 30) calls for prohibiting sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, which the State Department had recently notified to the Congress.
It also calls for "prohibiting sale" of other military hardware to Pakistan including eight Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDWES), 14 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS).
India is opposing the sale of F-16 to Pakistan, saying it disagrees with Washington's rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism.
Kerry said the US does not want to do things that upset the balance.
"But we do believe that Pakistan is engaged legitimately in a very tough fight against identifiable terrorists in their country that threaten Pakistan," the top American diplomat argued.
"They have got about 150,000 to 180,000 troops out in the western part of their country. They've been engaged in North Waziristan in a long struggle to clear the area and move people out. They have made some progress in that. Is it enough in our judgment? No," he said.
"We think that more could be done. We're particularly concerned about the sanctuary components of Pakistan, and we're particularly concerned about some individual entities in Pakistan that have been supportive of relationships with some of the people that we consider extremely dangerous to our interests in Afghanistan elsewhere; Haqqani Network, prime example of that," Kerry said.
Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has put a hold on the sale of F-16 to Pakistan.
The Obama Administration, however, is hopeful that it would be able to overcome legislative challenges to proceed with the sale of F-16.