ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has explained that the United States has not blocked or cut any aid or assistance to Pakistan as Washington has only stopped reimbursement of $300 million to Pakistan, the amount which Islamabad has already spent in war against terrorism.

“I want to give an explanation. This $300m was neither any aid nor assistance. Actually it is our share in Coalition Support Fund (CSF). This is the money which Pakistan has already spent through its own resources and they (the US) were to reimburse it to us,” he said while talking to reporters on Sunday after the media quoted a Pentagon statement that the US military was seeking to reallocate $300m in aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy... $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defence Department in the June/July 2018 timeframe for other urgent priorities,” Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Kone Faulkner reportedly told AFP news agency.

Says Islamabad will try to move forward during Pompeo’s visit, while keeping in view its ‘concerns’

The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied,” Mr Faulkner said.

The move came ahead of Secre­tary of State Michael Pompeo’s and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Joseph F. Dunford’s visit to Islamabad next week. They are also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Mr Qureshi claimed that the US had decided to take this action even before the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf assumed office after the July 25 elections.

“This has not happened today. The US had already suspended all security assistance, including the CSF, even before our coming to power,” the foreign minister said.

Mr Qureshi, who had previously served as foreign minister under the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government during 2008-12, said that Pakistan had spent this amount to eliminate the menace of terrorism which was a “shared objective” with the US. He said that the US acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution and sacrifices towards achieving this “shared objective” of eliminating terrorists and establishing peace in the region as well as the world.

The foreign minister said the US Secretary of State Pompeo was due in Islamabad on Wednesday and the visit would provide a good opportunity to both sides to hear each other’s point of view.

He claimed that there was no engagement with the US at any level during the previous government under the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and there was “almost a breakdown” in the Pakistan-US relations.

Terming the coming visit of the US secretary of state “an opening” for Pakistan, he said that they would try to move forward while keeping in view “our concerns, issues and shared objectives.”

The foreign minister said that Pakistan believed that the steps needed to achieve “the shared objectives” should continue as the country’s armed forces and even the people had already rendered great sacrifices in the efforts to purge the region of terrorists and restore peace in the region.

Responding to a question about eight-hour long visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi last week, Mr Qureshi said that those who always used to complain about “civil-military relations” must be happy over it. He said the prime minister was comprehensively briefed on issues related to internal and external security in a very “cordial” atmosphere during the visit to the GHQ.

Nigeria arrests

Replying another question about arrest of two Pakistani nationals in Nigeria, the foreign minister said that they had provided counsellor’s access to the detainees and were seeking further information about the incident from the Nigerian government. He said the Nigerian officials had informed them that the two Pakistanis had been arrested from a ship being used for oil smuggling.

Replying to yet another query, the minister said Pakistan had closed its consulate in Jalalabad (Afghanistan) due to some security concerns after Afghan officials “disturbed some security arrangements.” He said they were in contact with the Afghan officials and they had “promised to place corrective measures” in this regard.

The FM said that the Afghan foreign minister was expected to have a telephonic conversation with him on Monday (today) in which they would discuss the matter.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018