US senator does not expect Pakistan F-16 sale to be blockedPakistan
WASHINGTON: United States Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday he does not expect an upcoming vote on a $700 million sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan to keep the deal from going ahead.
However, he said there was still discussion of whether US taxpayer funds could be used to finance the purchase.
President Barack Obama's administration announced on Feb 12 that it had approved the sale of the Lockheed Martin Corp aircraft as well as radars and other equipment to Pakistan.
It drew immediate criticism from India and concern from some members of Congress.
Read: India should not be concerned over F-16 sale to Pakistan, says Pentagon
Republican Senator Rand Paul in late February invoked legislation known as the Arms Export Control Act in the hope of stopping the sale by passing a Resolution of Disapproval, calling Pakistan “an uncertain ally”.
Cardin told reporters he opposed Paul's resolution and expected it would fail, with the chamber's Republican and Democratic leaders opposing it. The measure could be taken up by the Senate as soon as Thursday.
Cardin said lawmakers had concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program, commitment to fighting terrorist organisations and cooperation in the Afghanistan peace process but generally supported the sale.
“It was not controversial that Pakistan needs to modernise its air force and its counter insurgency and counter-terrorism activities, particularly in the mountainous territority of the border with Afghanistan,” he said.
Pakistan has reminded US lawmakers that terrorists have killed thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians only because the country supports the US-led war against terrorists.
In a letter to a Senator Rand Paul, Pakistan’s Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani referred to a US intelligence document, which quotes Osama bin Laden as asking his followers to attack the Pakistani state and it’s military because of their anti-terrorism partnership with the US.
“Why has Pakistan paid this staggering price in human blood? The answer perhaps lies in the brochure ‘Jihad in Pakistan’ that was found by the US forces from Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 and released last week by the office Director National Intelligence,” wrote the ambassador.
Congress is currently considering a request to “reprogram” some funds, in other words, use them for a different purpose than allocated in a budget bill, to help finance the deal.
Cardin said he was not yet prepared to make a judgment on whether US taxpayer funds should be used to help Pakistan with the purchase