| A soldier stands guard outside the Karachi high court on Sunday. (Reuters)
Washington/Jerusalem, Nov. 4: US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice today said America would review its aid after President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency but officials in Washington have hinted that cuts, if any, may be trifling.
The Pentagon, with a more crucial role than the state department in aid policy, said last night there would be no immediate linkage between Musharraf’s move and US aid.
Pakistani police today arrested some 500 Opposition leaders, lawyers and rights activists amid unconfirmed reports that Imran Khan had escaped hours after he was put under house arrest.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the emergency would last “as long as it is necessary” and elections could be put off by up to a year, though no decision had been taken.
Officials involved in America’s Pakistan policy, however, said Washington was likely to go on scolding Musharraf but not impose significant sanctions since that could jeopardise its fight against terrorism.
Rice herself suggested that aid was unlikely to be suspended wholesale. The US has provided about $11 billion (Rs 44,000 crore) to Pakistan since 2001 when Islamabad became an ally in the war on terror.
“Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counter-terrorism mission. This is a complicated matter,” she told reporters on her West Asia trip.
“We just have to review the situation. But I would be very surprised if anyone wants the President to ignore our concerns about terrorism (that the aid to Pakistan partly attempts to address),” Rice said.
Any change in such an aid policy must be endorsed by the Pentagon before it is sent to Congress for approval.
Geoff Morrell, spokesman for defence secretary Robert Gates who is travelling in China, said last night: “(Musharraf’s) declaration does not impact our military support of Pakistan.” He added that “the stakes are high”.
The review cited by Rice would look in part at whether some current aid cannot continue because of US law that sets conditions for governments to receive money. That probably would cover only a small amount of the total aid, which now runs to about $150 million (Rs 600 crore) each month.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in August that less than a tenth of the aid bill since 2001 had paid for economic and social projects.
Rice promoted such assistance, particularly for education. She told reporters the US had looked beyond Musharraf and made a choice to support what had seemed to be an increasingly democratic nation at a critical time.
“The United States did not put all its chips on Musharraf,” Rice said.
Democratic Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is running for President in 2008, said an aid review was appropriate but the Bush administration’s policies limited its options.
“This administration has a Musharraf policy, not a Pakistan policy. It’s tied to Musharraf and its hands are pretty well tied right now,” Biden said.
A senior US official involved in Pakistan policy matters said: “The problem is we have a war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan is a coalition partner.
“We have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and it’s hard to have a good outcome there if Pakistan is not co-operating.”
So, the aim will be “to indicate our displeasure and to try to reduce the extent to which we become the target of the kind of ire of Pakistanis that is primarily directed at Musharraf himself”, said Paul Pillar, former CIA counter-terrorism official and senior analyst on South Asia.