Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has declared himself mystified by US threats to cut off funding, saying that US financial assistance was “very, very insignificant”.
In an interview with the Guardian, Abbasi said that reports that the US was considering cuts of up to $2billion in security assistance were bewildering because the total aid Pakistan – civilian and military – actually received was a tiny fraction of that amount.
“I am not sure what US aid has been talked here,” Abbasi said in his office in Islamabad. “The aid in the last five years at least has been less than $10 million a year. It is a very, very insignificant amount. So when I read in the paper that aid at the level of $250 million or 500 or 900 has been cut, we at least are not aware of that aid.”
Donald Trump used his first tweet of 2018 to threaten to withhold aid to Pakistan because of what he called its “lies and deceit” over terrorism, claiming: “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.” The president has that the US had “foolishly” given Pakistan $33billion over the past 15 years.
According to the US Agency for International Development, the US gave $778 million to Pakistan in assistance in 2016, of which 35 per cent was military and the rest economic.
The threatened move – designed to force Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus to cut support for the Taliban and other Islamist groups – would include both US military assistance and Afghanistan coalition funding to Islamabad.
A senior official was quoted by the French Press Agency as saying that potential cuts could affect bilateral security assistance and funding that is channelled to Islamabad through the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.
The official said it was “approximately $2billion worth of equipment and coalition support funding that is in play”.
The official added that “all options are on the table” when it comes to further moves, including stripping Pakistan of its status as a “major non-Nato ally”.
Pakistani officials said that the amounts actually of aid money spent are much less that those quoted and they plan to publish their version soon.
Abbasi, who was elected prime minister last year, rejected Trump’s charge of duplicity over the fight against terrorism, calling his claim that Pakistan was harbouring terrorists a “fallacy”.
“Pakistan is a sovereign country and Pakistan has always abided by international conventions,” he said. “We are today fighting the largest war on terror in the world. We are fighting the world’s war on terror with our own resources … That is something the world has to appreciate.
“We have over 6,500 [killed] almost 37,000 of the civilian population has been killed. There are tens of thousands of people injured. We have suffered a loss of over $120billion in our economy. So the world has to appreciate that. We just want the world to know that Pakistan is on the forefront on the war on this terror.”
“Today we are fighting terrorists. So if somebody says we are harbouring terrorists, there is no greater fallacy,” Abbasi said. “We have engaged US at every level from President Trump down. We have explained to them … what Pakistan has done we have explained to the rest of the world also.”
“It’s the rest of the world failed in Afghanistan to control terrorists who today attack Pakistan across the border. Pakistan has won the war against terror on its own territory,” Abbasi said.