An attempt by Republican Senator Rand Paul to stall a U.S move to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan hit a procedural roadblock in the Senate on Thursday, but lawmakers expressed strong disapproval of the deal and its future remains uncertain.
Mr Paul’s move to disrupt the deal through a legislative decision found support from 24 senators – 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats, in a rare development. Congress has never overturned administration decisions on foreign military sales. In this case, even most of those who opposed Mr Paul’s resolution pledged to oppose the funding of the deal through U.S financial assistance.
Sources familiar with the developments told The Hindu that the real obstacle to the $699 million deal is the lawmakers’ objection to U.S financing it through an assistance programme. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said he was allowing the deal to proceed, but would block the move to finance it with U.S aid. Democratic Ranking Member Ben Cardin agreed with him on this question.
Mr. Cardin said the nod for the deal to proceed did not include the foreign military financing part. “The administration has brought forward a proposal for some reprogramming of funds to help pay for the F-16 sale to Pakistan. In other words, we would use some of the moneys that we have already programmed for Afghanistan to be used to pay for the sale of the F-16's. That requires a signoff from the leadership of the two authorizing committees. Senator Corker and I had not signed off on that nor do we intend to sign off on that until we have further explanations on a lot of the issues that Senator Corker and I have already raised,” he said. Both Senators have called for demonstrable “behavioural changes” in Pakistan in terms of its support for terrorism and its dealings with India.
“I can’t in good conscience look away as America crumbles at home and politicians tax us to send the money to corrupt and duplicitous regimes abroad,” Mr Paul said. “Pakistan is at best a frenemy. Part friend — and a lot of enemy.”