US Congress holds up sale of F-16 fighters to Pak

13 January 2016

The sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan has been held up by the US Congress, which reflects the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments on Capitol Hill.

The Obama administration has been keen on selling these aircraft to Pakistan and it may ultimately succeed in pushing through the deal.

The administration notified Congress of its intention to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan during Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s visit to Washington last October.

But the administration also received a `hold` notice from the Senate, using the legislative process to delay the proposed sale.

Lawmakers used clarification and information notices to delay the sale.

The hold, however, does not kill the measure and it can still go through if the administration continues to push for it. Reports citing sources on the Hill say that since the Obama administration is keen on selling these aircraft to Pakistan, it may ultimately succeed in undoing the hold.

In effect, the sale has been ''stalled'', multiple congressional sources confirmed. They, however, clarified at the same time it does not mean the move is dead or it has been ''cancelled''.

Indians, who are closely following the proposal, preferred the word ''disrupted'', which, once again, doesn't mean it's been cancelled. ''Let's see where it goes now,'' an official said.

The move comes at a time when the US State Department has said it expects Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack without distinguishing between ''good'' and ''bad'' militants.

At recent congressional hearings, key US lawmakers raised a host of questions about the end use of the F-16 aircraft and about the US relationship with Pakistan.

''I don't know how an F-16, with all of its hardware on there for combat, can be used for humanitarian aid. If they were buying C-130s I could see those being used for humanitarian aid. But F-16! It's not really humanitarian aid,'' said Congressman Ted Poe.

''Those F-16s and the military equipment that we are providing Pakistan are being used against their own people, just like they did against the people over there in Bangladesh,'' said Congressman Dan Rohrabacher.

Both lawmakers belong to a growing lobby in Congress, which oppose arms sales to Pakistan. Usually, such lawmakers are also active in the Indian caucus on Capitol Hill.

Pakistan does have a caucus on the Hill but it is small and ineffective. The Indian caucus, however, has grown gradually in size and influence and is now said to be the second most effective lobby after Israel's.


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