WASHINGTON: “We’re hoping that Pakistan will see this as an incentive, not a punishment,” said a US State Department official while explaining Thursday’s decision to suspend all security aid to Islamabad.

“The United States will not deliver military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless required by law,” the official said. “Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis if they are determined to be critical to national security interests.”

He was one of two senior State Department officials who briefed the media hours after the suspension order was announced at a late Thursday afternoon news briefing in Washington.

Claiming that the action that practically severs the security relationship bet­ween the two former allies, the officials urged Pakistanis not to see this as punishment.

“The Pressler Amend­ment was a punishment or — I mean, you can call it a punishment — for having launched a nuclear programme,” said one of them, referring to a 1985 sanction that banned most security and economic assistance to Pakistan.

“The suspension is not a permanent cut-off at this time. Security assistance funding impending deliveries will be frozen, but not cancelled, as we continue to hope Pakistan will take the decisive action against terrorist and militant groups that we seek,” the official added. “We do not intend to reprogram any funds at this time.”

Pakistan can access those funds if it accepts US demands for taking effective actions against the Haqqani network as the funds do not expire until September 30, 2018. Funds it can also access include Foreign Military Financing, which is good for seven years.

US civilian assistance programmes in Pakistan are not included in the suspension, which includes $223 million from FY17 and $211 million earmarked for FY18.

“The elements of the Pakistani government that need to take the steps that we’re talking about are not touched by civilian assistance, and so it wouldn’t make any sense to tie civilian assistance to those steps that we’re asking for,” said one senior State Department official.

The two officials explai­ned that since Aug 21, when President Trump announced his new South Asia strategy, the US had made it clear that its relationship with Pakis­tan will now be evaluated on an ongoing basis on Pakis­tan’s responsiveness to US requests for support on impl­ementing the new policy.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2018

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