Washington: US senators have strongly opposed the use of taxpayers' money for military aid to Pakistan in USD 700 million sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to the country as they questioned Islamabad's commitment to fight terrorist organisations.
However, for their own political reasons the senators did not approve tabling of a resolution suggesting blocking of sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
Even though considered to be procedural in nature, the Senate by a vote of 71-24 disapproved the move to bypass the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in deciding against sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan, Congressional sources told PTI that the voting of some two-dozen influential senators reflects the strong anti-Pak sentiment prevailing at the Hill.
None of the senators, even though they voted for the motion to disallow tabling of the resolution seeking preventing sale of F-16 to Pakistan, spoke in support of Islamabad.
In fact, cutting across the party line the senators were quick to point towards the "duplicity" behaviour of Pakistan and said in unanimous voice that they would not let Obama Administration to use tax payers' money for the sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan.
In fact, Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over foreign military sale said that he would not lift the "hold" on the American subsidy for giving fighter jets to Pakistan.
"I continue to oppose any taxpayer dollars being used at this time to support this sale given that Pakistan is providing safe haven to terrorist groups and refusing to target the Haqqani network, which attacks US troops and threatens the future of Afghanistan," Corker said on the Senate floor.
"Prohibiting a taxpayer subsidy sends a much-needed message to Pakistan that it needs to change its behaviour, but preventing the purchase of US aircraft would do more harm than good by paving the way for countries like Russia and China to sell to Pakistan while also inhibiting greater cooperation on counterterrorism," Corker said.
Senator Rand Paul, the former Republican presidential candidate, who has moved a resolution against sale of F-16 jets and sought voting invoking the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, alleged Pakistan at best is a frenemy, part friend and a lot enemy.
"If Pakistan truly wants to be our ally, if Pakistan truly wants to help in the war on radical Islam, it should not require a bribe. It should not require the American taxpayer to subsidise arms sales. They already have 70 F-16s. They've got an air force of F-16s," he said.
"What what would happen if we didn't send them eight more that we're being asked to pay for? Maybe they'd listen. Maybe they would help us. Maybe they would be an honest broker in the fight against terrorism," he said.
At a time when the US is having a USD 19 trillion in debt, Senator Paul questioned the rationale of using over USD 300 million from the American taxpayer to go to Pakistan to pay for eight new F-16s for Pakistan.
"We don't have enough money to be sending it to Pakistan. I can't in good conscience look away as America crumbles at home and politicians tax us to send the money to corrupt and duplicitous regimes abroad," Paul said, whose resolution even during a procedural motion received the support of 24 Senators.
"If we move forward with these sales without putting some markers down, I think we potentially not only do damage to holding Pakistan's feet to the fire in terms of the threat of terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, but also potentially could do damage to one of the most important relationships our country has, and that is the strategic relationship between the US and India," Senator Mark Warner said.
"I want to commend the leadership of the Foreign Relations Committee for making very clear that even if this sale should go forward, the financing of this sale is still subject to further American review," he said referring to the involvement of terrorists from Pakistan in the Pathankot attack.
"The US can no longer give Pakistan a pass, whether it is actions in the region vis-a-vis Afghanistan or within their own country but also in terms of their unwillingness to meet India even halfway in terms of trying to bring a greater stability to one of the regions that could potentially be a tinderbox in terms of the border regions between India and Pakistan," he said.
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 Pakistanis have done little to nothing to try to reduce the influence of madrasas, religious schools and foreign funding that often breeds intolerant version of religious teaching, he alleged.
"And we let them off the hook in a sense by selling them the weapons systems that will in effect constantly force the Pakistanis to chase their own tail. So I think it's important to understand that the Pakistanis are not making the real meaningful contributions to rooting out extremism and just handing weapons systems on the back end doesn't do the job," Murphy said.
"We've given USD 15 billion to Pakistan over the last decade. And yet their previous president admits that Pakistan armed, aided, and abetted the Taliban," he said.
"You remember the Taliban in Afghanistan that harbored and hosted bin Laden for a decade? Pakistan helped them. Pakistan was one of only two countries that recognised the Taliban," he added.