A matter of aid and priorities

It looks like there are tough times ahead for Pakistan if it refuses to budge on its unreasonable stance concerning Dr Shakil Afridi, the figure at the centre of the Osama bin Laden controversy. The doctor is languishing in a prison here in Pakistan because he dared play a crucial role in the capture of the world’s most wanted man. And it is this very reason that is behind the US’s rethink of its overall aid to Pakistan. It seems the $ 33 million that were incoming in the next one year are on standby now until the matter concerning the doctor has been sorted out. Lawmakers in the US have set the condition that this cache of aid money will be made available once Dr Afridi is released and the US receives full cooperation from Pakistan in the war on terror, duly certified by the US Secretary of State. This decision has been taken by Congress, unanimously agreed upon by both the Democrats and Republicans, a matter that does not lie in the US administration’s hands per se. The mood in Congress has definitely turned against Pakistan; it seems the recent blockage of the NATO supply route by the PTI has pushed lawmakers in the US to take strict action if their demands are not met. 
It is time the government in Pakistan wakes up to some stone cold facts — we need aid and we need to make sure we invest in the war on terror wholeheartedly. Our dual policy and our attitude towards Shakil Afridi have landed us in hot water. We punished a man for leading to the arrest of the highest value target instead of rewarding him and put him through a dubious Frontier Crimes Regulations trial, sentencing him to 33 years in prison. He exposed Osama bin Laden through a CIA-sponsored vaccination programme aimed at obtaining the terrorist’s DNA but we made him pay an unjust price. Were we in collusion with bin Laden? If not, we are showing the world a different picture. Shakil Afridi is not a traitor. For those who argue over sovereignty, they need to ask themselves if Osama was violating our sovereignty first or the US raid? Are the foreigners in FATA violating our sovereignty or the drones? We need to set our priorities straight and understand that our decisions affect us in many ways. The US has the ability to halt not just the $ 33 million in aid but can influence a number of countries and multilateral institutions that we rely on in our time of need. Why make foolish decisions that damage us and no one else?  *

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Aaj Kal