By Asish Samson

In a particularly strong move the US has withheld financial aid to Pakistan. The White House on Monday announced that it would be withholding the pending $255 million earmarked for Pakistan. As if to punctuate the move, President Trump in his first tweet in the New Year slammed Pakistan for its “lies and deceit” over its fight against terrorism.

Ties between US and Pakistan have been strained since Trump took office. Trump had previously criticised Pakistan even during his campaign over their commitment to fighting radical Islamic terrorism. The US had previously given $33 billion in military and non military aid to Pakistan over the last 15 years. This should come as a no surprise to anyone since US had made its intentions clear months ago. Vice President Mike Pence too had recently declared in Afghanistan that Trump put Pakistan “ on notice.”

The ever degrading ties between Pakistan and the US have been kick started after Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, the head of Al Qaeda and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks had been found to be living in Pakistan for years in a bungalow in Abbottabad suspiciously close to a military base. The US had been hunting for him since 2001 and finally killed him in 2010 in his bungalow. This incident sparked widespread criticism on Pakistan for their harbouring on such terrorists. While Pakistan repeatedly denied ever knowing about Osama Bin Laden, it was clear that they had failed. Recently Pakistan had released Hafeez Saeed, the main accused in 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. This move sparked outrage from India and its allies calling for immediate arrest and re-imprisonment of the accused. Gen John Nicholson, the commander of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan revealed in November that many Taliban leaders were “Living in comfort with plenty of drug money” in Pakistan.

Pakistan has recently been growing alarmingly close to China and China has responded back kindly. China sees Pakistan as an ally against India and the US. This close proximity has surely not escaped the US who has always viewed China as its rival. The Chinese have repeatedly come to defend Pakistan in many issues globally. The combinations of all these factors and a host of unmet US demands has led to this move.

The stoppage of aid and the subsequent Trump tweet have evoked a sharp response in Pakistan with US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale being summoned to the foreign ministry and Prime Minister Abbasi calling for an emergency National Security meet. Around 200 members of the coalition of Islamist parties have protested by burning the flag of USA.

Meanwhile India has welcomed the move and expressed that its stand had been “Vindicated” by this decision. India has always criticised Pakistan and particularly the ISI in their role in counter-terrorism and providing safe havens for terrorists.