White House May Push to Preserve Pakistan Aid

The U.S. is reviewing its aid to Pakistan, about $10 billion in overt funding since 2001. Yet the Bush administration may push for continuing military aid for the Pakistani army's counterinsurgency operations, says analyst Steve Coll of the New America Foundation.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

As we mentioned, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today the United States is reviewing financial aid to Pakistan including all assistance programs. At the same time, she stressed that the situation is complicated.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): The president has an obligation to protect the United States, to protect Americans. That means that we have to be very cognizant of the counter-terrorism operations that we are involved in. We have to be very cognizant of the fact that some of the assistance that has been going to Pakistan is directly related to the counter-terrorism mission.

LYDEN: To find out more about U.S.'s assistance to Pakistan and what leverage it might give the Bush administration, we've called on Steve Coll. He's the author of "Ghost Wars," a book about the CIA in Afghanistan, and he's reported extensively from that country and Pakistan.

Steve Coll, thanks for joining us.

Mr. STEVE COLL (Author, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001"): My pleasure, Jacki.

LYDEN: How much does U.S. financial aid helped General Musharraf as he fights the Taliban and what seems to be a growing insurgency in Pakistan?

Mr. COLL: Well, it's been an important source of support for the Pakistan Army since September 11th. In total, United States has provided about $10 billion, with a B, in overt funding to Pakistan since 9/11 and probably another 5 billion or so in undeclared covert money.

A great majority of that has gone, either, directly to the army as compensation for its joint operations against Taliban and al-Qaida elements in Western Pakistan or as direct economic support to the Pakistan treasury which is effectively controlled by the army. So it's been a substantial infusion of hard currency.

LYDEN: Secretary of State Rice has been quite forceful this weekend. Yesterday she said the state of emergency was highly regrettable. But a Pentagon spokesman said that Musharraf's declaration doesn't impact U.S.-military support for Pakistan. What about the Pentagon? What do you surmise the thinking is there?

Mr. COLL: Well, I think, I hear Secretary Rice today setting up the administration's argument with Congress about what to do over Pakistan military aid in the aftermath of this essentially second coup by Musharraf, and I think she's signaling that the administration is going to argue for a continuation of the bulk of U.S. aid to Pakistan despite Musharraf's defiance of the stated U.S. wish that he not impose emergency rule and that he'd proceed quickly to election. So what I think the administration is already trying to do is to engage Congress in an argument that most or at least that portion of the aid which directly supports the Pakistan Army's counterinsurgency operations should continue.

LYDEN: Steve, is there any other financial leverage the United States have here other than military spending?

Mr. COLL: Well, it provides economic support for the Pakistan government and it provides support through the IMF and the World Bank for multilateral lending and direct grants to Pakistan.

I think though most of America's leverage is in its relationship with the Pakistan Army and with the technology and cash that it provides to make that army stronger, again, both in its counterinsurgency operations, but also, in the army's more serious concerns about strengthening itself against India.

LYDEN: Steve Coll is the president of the New America Foundation.

Thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. COLL: My pleasure, Jacki.

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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said on Sunday that leaders of her opposition party had been arrested by Pakistan's security forces following a declaration of emergency rule by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Bhutto, who in recent weeks has sought a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, told NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that "local leaders of the (Pakistan People's Party) were arrested last night."

Bhutto said she was "deeply concerned" about the situation and surprised that she herself had not been arrested when she returned to Pakistan on Saturday after a brief trip to Dubai.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup but had promised to stand down as army chief, declared a state of emergency Saturday night, dashing hopes of a smooth transition to democracy for the nuclear-armed nation.

In a statement on state-run television, he cited concerns about an Islamic militant movement that has spread from border regions to the capital and an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, which was expected to rule soon on the validity of his recent presidential election win. Hearings scheduled for next week were postponed, with no new date set.

"He said he's done this to stop extremism. But many people in Pakistan believe that this has actually been done to stop the Supreme Court from giving an adverse order against his eligibility to remain as army chief and president of the country," Bhutto told NPR.

Another former Pakistan prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, told NPR's All Things Considered that Pakistan was on the "brink of disaster."

"One man is holding the whole nation hostage," Sharif said.

He called for Washington to take a firm stand against Musharraf's actions.

"The United States has to put its foot down if it wants democracy in Pakistan," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a return to democracy, as the American embassy urged citizens in Pakistan to remain at home and defer all nonessential travel. But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the emergency declaration "does not impact our military support" of the Muslim nation or its efforts in the war on terror.

Meanwhile in Pakistan on Sunday, the headline carried by the Daily Times read: "It is martial law."

Pakistan Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum denied claims by Bhutto and Sharif that Musharraf had imposed martial law — direct rule by the army — under the guise of a state of emergency. He noted that the prime minister was still in place and that parliament would complete its term, ending Nov. 15.

In the capital, Islamabad, police wielding assault rifles rounded up opposition leaders and rights activists Sunday after Musharraf suspended the constitution, ousted Pakistan's top justices and deployed troops to fight what he called rising Islamic extremism.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said 500 activists had been arrested in the last 24 hours. He said the extraordinary measures, which include shutting down all but state-controlled media, would remain in place "as long as it is necessary." He also said parliamentary elections could be postponed up to a year, but no such decision had been made.

In Islamabad, phone service that was cut Saturday evening appeared to have been restored by Sunday morning. But transmissions by television news networks other than state-controlled Pakistan TV remained off the air.

Scores of paramilitary troops blocked access to the Supreme Court and parliament. Otherwise streets in the capital appeared calm, with only a handful of demonstrations. But one, attended by 40 people at the Marriott Hotel, was broken up by baton-wielding police.

"Shame on You! Go, Musharraf, go!" the protesters shouted, as officers dragged some out of the crowd and forced them to the ground. Eight were taken away in a van.

Western allies had urged Musharraf not to take authoritarian measures despite recent his country's recent turmoil.

With additional reporting from The Associated Press

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