Author: S Rajagopalan
California Representative Dana Rohrabacher has served it to Pakistan straight, calling it a 'failed state' to the face of even visiting Prime Minister Gilani. Now that his legislative bid has failed, it would be interesting to see his next move
In the US Congress, he was once regarded as a great friend of Pakistan — and an India-baiter, if you will. Now, Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican, is among the foremost of lawmakers on Capitol Hill to hold Pakistan's feet to the fire. He is indeed battling Islamabad on several fronts, including cutting off the very substantial American aid to punish Pakistan for actively collaborating with terror outfits like the Haqqani network that are killing US troops in Afghanistan. And he is also making the case for Washington dumping Islamabad for good and aligning closely with New Delhi on peace moves related to the future of Afghanistan.
Last week, Mr Rohrabacher raised Islamabad's hackles yet again by introducing the "Pakistan Terrorism Accountability Act of 2012". The Bill that has since been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee can definitely boast of a first-of-its-kind provision. It proposes deducting a hefty $50 million from US aid to Pakistan for every American killed in Afghanistan "as a result of the actions of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or support provided by the ISI to other organisations or individuals, including the Haqqani Network". The deducted amount should be turned over to the victim's family, says the Bill that was tabled just days before the House of Representatives was to deliberate on the Obama administration's request for $2.4 billion in assistance to Pakistan for the next fiscal year.
"For too long America has funded the Pakistani government, giving it free money, while elements of the ISI and Pakistan's military operate radical Islamic groups that are actively murdering Americans," said Mr Rohrabacher, declaring: "Americans will not accept this." His Bill would require the Department of Defense to list all Americans killed by terrorist groups operating with impunity, thanks to the ISI's support. "Pakistan helped to create the Taliban and Pakistan's intelligence service hid Osama Bin Laden from the US for years. Today, one of the most dangerous and sophisticated groups killing American troops in Afghanistan is the Haqqani Network, which is closely operated by the Pakistani government," he thundered.
The veteran lawmaker, now serving his 12th term in the House, is convinced that Pakistan, through the ISI, maintains control and influence in Afghanistan through militant Islamic groups such as the Haqqani network. He reckons that the motivation for all this is to "secure its strategic position and expand its sphere of influence, not only in Afghanistan, but also in Kashmir and against India". In his estimation, the Taliban are being used by Pakistan to gain strategic depth against India. "We need to quit operating under the assumption Pakistan is our ally. It is our enemy. The Pakistani government is the radical Islamic enemy we are fighting," he said in one of his strongly-worded statements, adding: "We should shy away from the Cold War strategy of unconditionally backing Pakistan and move instead toward a partnership with India."
A report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point last year traced Pakistan's sponsorship of the Haqqani network, dating back to the 1980s. "During the 1980s, Jalaluddin (Haqqani) quickly rose to be one of the ISI's most favoured field commanders and the support he provided would have a significant impact upon Pakistan's security establishment and the jihad in Kashmir in years to follow," it said. Mr Rohrabacher's Bill speaks of the Pakistani support to Haqqani network to carry out a spate of attacks in Afghanistan from 2008 onwards. It lists 18 major attacks, including the Indian Embassy bombing in July 2008 and the attacks on the US Embassy in Kabul and NATO Headquarters in September 2011.
Earlier this month, Mr Rohrabacher put it to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that his country is a failed state, arguing that no amount of US aid will ever change that. "American aid money for Pakistan will dry up. It is clear that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have for years diverted money intended to help the people of Balochistan, and the other provinces of Pakistan, into funding terrorism and buying weapons to repress their own people," he said in a letter to Mr Gilani.
As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Mr Rohrabacher has also angered Pakistan by introducing a resolution in support of self-determination in its restive Balochistan province. The move triggered protests in Pakistan and prompted its envoy in Washington, Ms Sherry Rehman, to fire off a missive to House Speaker John Boehner, asserting that such statements and resolutions could undermine
Pakistan-US relations". But Mr Rohrabacher argues that his move is justified by the "horrific violations of human rights by Pakistan security forces in Baluchistan". He later wrote in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post: "I make no apology for submitting a resolution championing the oppressed people of Baluchistan in their deals with a Pakistani government that has betrayed our trust."
However, for all the exertions of Mr Rohrabacher, Pakistani circles seem to be deriving comfort from a calculation that there is little chance of his Bills and resolutions passing muster. They appear to be clearly satisfied that previous attempts by him and other lawmakers to curtail or condition aid have failed in the final analysis. Apparently, they are also counting on signals that the White House itself is against slapping more conditions on Pakistan "at a particularly sensitive time".
Last modified on Saturday, 19 May 2012 12:24