December 05, 1998

The exercise of the Presidential waiver authority-announced through Presidential Determination No. 99_7 pursuant to section 902 of the India-Pakistan Relief Act 1998—-to partially suspend sanctions imposed against Pakistan, may be considered in the right direction. For Pakistan it marks a little return from the mismanaged discord with the American Administration after the detonation of nuclear devices in May and Jude 1998. In effect, the reversed mood in Washington removes the final obstacle in the leading aid-granting nation for Pakistan to obtain certain desperately needed quick-action relief to slow the economic stagnation, taking root in the country. This is the partial truth. Once the media frenzy has passed and reality hits home, these events can serve to remind us of the weighty matters confronting Pakistan today.

Both the national press and the electronic media have vividly expressed that the recently announced partial easing of certain sanctions by President Clinton represent a momentous change for Pakistan. This euphoria is misconceived and based on assumptions contradicted by the relevant American legislation. The lifting of sanction is clearly prompted for reasons domestic to the United States, with no regard to Pakistan’s all-important legitimate security objectives. Importantly, the waivers are no lifting of sanctions, but expressly a mere suspension of them till October 1999.

The partial waiver of sanction by the Presidential Determination, have allowed resumption of the following economic activities by American entities with reference to Pakistan: (1) investments by Overseas Private Investment Corporation; (2) activities of the Export-Import Bank; (3) Export Credit Guarantees; ($) private bank loan to the Government of Pakistan. Furthermore, the waivers allow the United States to assist Pakistan in obtaining hands-outs from international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund. As a donor country, the United States is anxious to expand the base of commercial loans provided to Pakistan through these and other credit-providing institutions. Naturally, this move intends to benefit American service and banking sector, manufacturers and exporters alike. Such developments are in line with the State Department’s oft declared foreign policy objective of expanding the United States’ overseas commercial interest, particularly in developing regions with large consumer markets, where increased geo-strategic influence follows in the foot-steps of successful American businessmen.

It appears that certain sanctions related to nuclear arms control have also been waived. In particular, sections 101 and 102 of the Arms Export Control Act have been partially suspended. The mandatory sanctions imposed under the Arms Export Control Act represent the primary obstacle preventing Pakistan from obtaining American military hard-ware. Thus, apparently, any easing in this respect should constitute a development to Pakistan’s advantage. A closer examination of the relevant provisions, however, substantively contradicts this view. For the exceptions to the Presidential waiver authority contained in section 902 (b) of the India-Pakistan Relief Act 1998 disallow Presidential waiver in respect of sections 102(b) (2) (B), (C) and (G). These exceptions pull the carpet away from under the gestures advancing an image of good-will and generous friendship. The exceptions starkly illustrate that the whole waiving ceremony is a deceptively happy cloak worn by American businessmen in their intense global struggle to gain an ever increasing market-share over their European and Asian competitions. So, Pakistan is, as ever, caught between the giants ’great game, playing the sorry role of an abused third-world territory.

The waiver illustrate that the partial suspension of sanctions against Pakistan was merely ritualistic gesture intended to induce concessions. Washington hopes to mid-wife these capitulations by the Pakistani Government. In particular, the wish is that such concessions will materialise in the context of the nuclear non-proliferation and Fissile Material Cut-Off negotiations from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at minimum cost to American commercial and regional interests.

The relevant provisions of the Arms Export Control Act prohibit certain activities which violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime. As Pakistan has proven its nuclear capability, and is regarded as responsible member of the international community which will not entertain illicit requests for nuclear technology or materials, the waiver in this respect does little more than to declare redundant certain provision which have outlived their utility. And crucially, the operative sanction-imposing subparagraphs of section 102, under which mandatory sanctions shall be imposed, are expressly excluded from the Presidential waiver authority. Therefore, the termination of defence assistance in terms of money or hard-ware or other military assistance remains expressly in force. This is, to say the least, disappointing treatment meted out by a powerful nation which has historically made—and continues to make —-great claims of friendship and good-will in her ties with Pakistan.

While certain symbolic sanctions in the commercial sectors have been put in abeyance, this represents neither real nor substantial concessions by Washington. The suspended sanctions were hurdles for expansion of vital American interest. Thus the recent alteration in the American posture through the Presidential waiver is aimed at securing unilateral trading benefits for the United States. This policy has previously been acknowledged by senior American statesmen in the State Department to lead to “soft” political power. In this way, America’s commercially oriented foreign policy is continuously stated to contribute significantly to the “national security” of the United States. So the view that the lifting of curbs was intended as good-will measures before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with President Clinton is simply not supported by fact.

Apparently, through the waiver of section 620(e)(3)  and (4) of the Foreign Assistance Act 1961, non-delivery by the American Government of 28 F-16 fighters  aircraft paid for in full by the Government of Pakistan stands favourably resolved. However, even this little has not been granted. The block on delivery of the F-16 aircraft remains unscathed by the Presidential waivers. Although the provisions particularizing the F-16 issue stand suspended, delivery of the military aircraft is blocked by other provisions of the Arms Export Control Act, expressly excepted from the Presidential waiver. This manifestation of misplaced distrust by the American administration in Pakistan gloomily overshadows the whimsical media frenzy on the issue and represents the true, commercially oriented, American approach to Pakistan.

Evidently, therefore, the sanctions on export to Pakistan of military and dual-purpose technologies (those sensitive technologies which are predominantly for civilian use, but which can be used for high-technology military purposes) remain intact. The focal point of all relieved sanctions is exclusively geared towards American manufacturers and exporters. It is not aimed at giving Pakistan any conceivable benefit, which it cannot already obtain from other tradition partners, for example those comprising the European Union or certain economically advanced nations in Asia, which honourably resisted discriminatorily imposed sanctions against Pakistan.

The international lenders have granted the minimum required threshold package to enable Pakistan to persistently continue to propagate its inefficient and routinely unwise and politically biased, economic escapades. Indeed, with the poor economic prospects across the nation, while stock markets the world over have rejoiced over the most persistent bull—in spite of East Asian turmoil and all—even seen in the history of Man, it is submitted that it is high time for us to stop to take stock. It is time to realize our considerable potential and set our policy objectives accordingly. Now would be an ideal time for the Prime Minister and his capable advisers to look further into the future than the next week, year or Parliamentary election. Pakistan requires long-term planning and a dedicated termination of adhocism, so abhorrently pervasive in our administrative machinery and provincial and federal governance.

Keeping in view the above position, but has been the net effect of the waivers? The waiver would spell no improvement as for as national development or self-respect is concerned. A system sustained by an artificial respiration machine has got a further breath of life. The system of dependence would continue and the dream of self-reliance would maintain its unbridgeable distance from reality. The beginning bowl has not been broken. It has been strengthened. And the hope of walking into the 21st Century with our heads lifted up and hot bowed would not continue to be only a hope amongst many unrealized hopes.