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US to sell 8 F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan: Report

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F-16 fighter aircraft. A file photo.

WASHINGTON (PTI): The US is planning to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan though it is unclear if the Congress will agree to the deal amid concerns among lawmakers whether the advanced aircraft would be used against India than for counterterrorism, a media report said on Thursday.

According to a report in the New York Times, the Congress was notified about the proposed sale of F-16s just days ahead of the Oval Office meeting between US President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

At the same time, the daily said that many in the Congress fear that F-16 jets are more useful to Pakistan in its long confrontation with India than for counterterrorism.

Sharif landed in the US on Tuesday on a state visit, and is scheduled to meet Obama on Thursday.

The new F-16s would add to Pakistan's sizeable force of fighter jets which include more than 70 F-16s and dozens of French and Chinese attack aircraft, it said.

The report, however, added that "it is unclear if Congress will approve the deal".

Earlier in April, the US State Department approved Pakistan's request for a billion dollars worth of military hardware and equipment, identifying Pakistan as a country of vital importance for US foreign policy and national interests.

By deciding to sell F-16 jets to Pakistan, the Obama Administration has ignored concerns about Islamabad's "ties to elements of the Taliban and quickly expanding nuclear arsenal" with the hope that such a move would "bolster" a tenuous partnership, the paper reported.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that in May this year, the US handed over to Pakistan over 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armoured personnel carriers.

The weapons supplied to Pakistan were earlier used by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Republican-controlled Congress has put a hold on USD 300 million Coalition Support Fund to the Pakistan unless the US Defence Secretary certifies that Pakistan is taking strong action against the Haqqani network.

So far the Defence Secretary has not been able to furnish such a certification to the Congress.

In March the House Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on about USD 150 million in foreign military financing.

The issue of continued safe haven to terrorist outfits like Haqqani network and LeT by Pakistan was raised yesterday by top American lawmakers when Sharif went to the Capitol Hill to meet members of the House and Senate foreign affairs committees.

In February Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, Committee's Ranking Member, wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to express their serious concern about Pakistan's failure to combat Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory.

"The US should pursue a different approach with the Pakistani government. We urge you to consider implementing travel restrictions, suspending portions of assistance, and sanctioning Pakistani officials that maintain relationships with designated terrorist groups," the two Congressmen wrote to Kerry.

"Such an approach would make clear that the US and Pakistan cannot have a true strategic partnership until Pakistan cuts all ties with terrorist organizations and renounces its use as an instrument of state policy," the letter said.

Royce and Elliot who on Wednesday led the House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting with Sharif wrote to Kerry in February, that Pakistan has done much less to combat other designated foreign terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

"This selective approach appears to stem from a misguided belief that some terrorist groups serve Pakistan's foreign policy goals in India and Afghanistan," they said.

After the meeting with US lawmakers yesterday, a top Pakistani official ruled out doing more against terrorism.

"There is no question of doing more. We have done enough (in the fight against terrorism). Do not talk of doing more," Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told reporters during a media interaction here.

During his interaction with the US business community on Wednesday, Sharif said that Pakistan is not making any distinction between terrorists, notwithstanding the fact that perpetrators of 26/11 freely roaming around the country.

"We have made a strategic choice to take on terrorists of all hues and colours through a comprehensive strategy, involving stringent law enforcement measures as well as targeted military operations," he said.

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US  Pakistan  F-16  Contract  Report  
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