Islamabad: In a setback for Pakistan, Republican-controlled US Congress has stalled sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad, amid growing anti-Pakistan sentiments on Capitol Hill over its reluctance in taking action against terrorist groups.
Citing diplomatic and congressional sources, the Dawn said US lawmakers had placed a “hold” on the proposed sale.
“The hold reflects the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments on Capitol Hill where it is now a routine to see strong attacks on Pakistan and its policies during congressional hearings,” the paper said.
Quoting the diplomatic sources, the paper said the Obama administration “informally” notified Congress of its intention to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to Washington last October.
But the lawmakers used clarification and information notices to delay the sale.
“The administration also received a ‘hold’ notice from the Senate, using this legislative process to delay floor action on the proposed sale to Pakistan,” the paper said.
US officials had earlier said that it would become very difficult for the US Government to convince the Congress to approve the sale of F-16s to Pakistan if Islamabad is seen as reluctant in taking action against these terrorist groups.
None of the officials in Pakistan was ready to comment on the reported hold on sale of the aircraft which forms the backbone of Pakistan Air Force.
The hold, however, does not kill the measure and it can still go through if the Obama administration continues to push for the sale, the paper said.
“Sources on the Hill say that since the Obama administration is keen on selling these aircraft to Pakistan, it may ultimately succeed in undoing the hold,” it added.
At recent congressional hearings, key US lawmakers raised a host of questions about the end use of the F-16 aircraft and about the US relationship with Pakistan.
“I don’t know how an F-16, with all of its hardware on there for combat can be used for humanitarian aid. If they were buying C-130s I could see those being used for humanitarian aid. But F-16! It’s not really humanitarian aid,” said Congressman Ted Poe.
“Those F-16s and the military equipment that we are providing Pakistan are being used against their own people, just like they did against the people over there in Bangladesh,” said Congressman Dan Rohrabacher.
Both lawmakers belong to a growing lobby in Congress which not only oppose arms sales to Pakistan but often urge the US to sever its ties with the country, the paper added.