The latest twist in the visa drama is once again shining lights into places that prefer to be in the shadows. First there was the leaked document requesting visas for alleged CIA agents signed not by Husain Haqqani or Asif Zardari but by Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt who was then a Brigadier and the Defence & Army Attache at the Embassy in Washington. Now another evidence of GHQ’s involvement in issuing visas to US agents has come to light, and this time it was sitting in plain sight the whole time.
Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik noted that visas are still being secretly issued to US officials in exchange for American funding to Pakistan Army. This may seem like a conspiracy theory, but actually there is evidence this time. In 2012, the US Congress introduced a new law with requirements for Coalition Support Funds paid to Pakistan that includes “issuing visas in a timely manner for United States visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts and assistance programs in Pakistan”. Since this new law was passed, the US has paid Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars.
It must be noted that all of this has taken place years after Husain Haqqani resigned his post as Ambassador in 2011! One can disagree with Haqqani’s analysis on geopolitics, but it is irrefutable that he has not had the ability to issue any visas since the past several years. That power has been handed over to intelligence agencies.
It is unclear what those who have reanimated the corpse of the entire visa conspiracy hope to achieve, but it is clear that what is actually happening is that more and more evidence is coming to light that it was not Husain Haqqani or civilian politicians behind it at all. It is also becoming quite clear that those who were responsible for issuing of visas are still doing. All one needs to do is follow the money. The question remaining is just how long this media drama will be allowed to continue, and if so what new evidences will come to light next.
The US Pentagon has announced that they will not pay Pakistan $300 Million in promised Coalition Support Funds despite “the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken” because it is “not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network“. The announcement did not come as a surprise as American officials warned their Pakistani counterparts about it one year ago.
In response, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria has reiterated the position that Pakistan is taking action against all terrorist groups without distinction. However, at the same time Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reiterated that Pakistan makes a careful distinction between who it terms as ‘terrorists’ and who is considered as ‘freedom fighters’.
This is the point of divergence between Pakistan and US policy. We agree that some groups, like TTP, are terrorists, but other groups, like Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, we support as ‘freedom fighters’.
It may have been a clever and lucrative strategy to carefully manage appearances about our policies towards certain militant groups, but now that there is no financial benefit it is time to reevaluate the cost of confusion and give a complete explanation of our policies and priorities. By hiding our true intentions, we were giving unnecessary weight to our critics who say that we are playing a double game. If we support Haqqani Network and other militant groups as ‘freedom fighters’, let us at least be open and honest about it and explain our reasoning. What do we have to lose?
A high level defence delegation led by Lt. Gen (Retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak has headed to Washington to attend the 24th Meeting of Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group. The Pakistani delegation has a clear brief: Ask for more money.
Pakistan side will stress for a way forward on issues related to Coalition Support Fund, its reimbursement continuation and enhancement. It remains high on agenda that Pakistan requires security equipment for capacity building and counter-terrorism operations.
Pakistan is in the front line on the war against terrorists. We have sacrificed more than any other nation and operation Zarb-e-Azb has also done more to break the backbone of terrorists than any other operation. None of this is denied. Still there need to be some questions asked about where all the billions are going. In the case of the military budget, the question does not always have a pleasing answer.
Auditor General of Pakistan has found over Rs5 BILLION in funds embezzled from defense budget in one year alone. Earlier this year Defence Ministry admitted that 81 officials were found guilty of embezzeling Rs1.53 billion from accounts of the Military Engineering Services (MES). Almost none of these funds could be recovered.
These are only two incidents that have been reported. Other reports suggest the problem may be much larger such as how former Chief of Army Staff and military dictator Gen Mushasrraf became a billionaire? Who knows how much has been stolen from defence funds?
Being the richest country in the world, America may not think much about billions going missing, but without proper accounting and accountability for these funds they could be funding the corruption that is destroying the nation’s economy.