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20 November 2017 20:52 (South Africa)

Offering money makes US the rope in a Pakistani tug-of-war

The new US aid package for Pakistan - $7.5 billion for civilian needs over the next five years — has put the US between Pakistan’s powerful military and its weak civilian government. The US is now in the middle of a decaying relationship between army head, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and President Asif Ali Zardari, as it insists on more civilian oversight of the military as a condition of the aid. With its economy in a shambles and facing a resourceful insurgency that continues a spate of suicide attacks, Pakistan would seem to need more than ever. Regardless, the Pakistani foreign ministry went to Washington to say Pakistan would not stand for being micromanaged. And now, the aid package threatens to undermine the president. In supporting Zardari at the expense of the military, the US has struck a raw nerve in Pakistani internal politics. “The army is saying privately that despite everything, it remains the one rigorous, merit-based institution in Pakistan, and if the politicians get their hands on promotions, that will be the end of it,” said one MP. American and Pakistani officials who support the aid say critics are manufacturing a crisis to discredit civilian government.

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