WASHINGTON: The US Congress has “stalled” Obama administration’s planned sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, Indian media reported on Tuesday.
In October, the Obama administration said it is preparing to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, an overture intended to bolster a tenuous partnership despite persistent concerns about Islamabad’s ties to elements of the Taliban and quickly expanding nuclear arsenal.
However, the move has now been stalled as lawmakers raised questions about the end use of the combat aircraft and the relationship between the two countries itself.
Several requests for clarification and information were made by members of the House of Representatives, effectively “stalling” the process, said a congressional source, according to the Hindustan Times.
At least one member of the Senate, a Democrat, has put a “hold” on the sale, a legislative process of a request to delay floor action on a measure, a bill, nomination or sale. In effect, the sale has been “stalled”, multiple congressional sources confirmed.
They, however, clarified at the same time it does not mean the move has been “cancelled”.
The newspaper reported that lawmakers stalled the deal over several issues worrying them. At recent congressional hearings, key US lawmakers raised a host of questions about the end use of the F-16 aircraft, including whether it could or would be used against India, and about the US relationship with Pakistan.
Lawmakers seemed troubled also by the overall signal the sale would send. “I’m concerned about the messages we’re sending when we continue to provide Pakistan security assistance despite Pakistan’s ongoing relationships with the Haqqani Network and LeT,” Eliot Engel, ranking member of the committee, had said.
Chairman Ed Royce used the phrase “Pakistan’s double-dealing” to question the continued flow of cash and arms.
From here, there are two ways the proposed sale could proceed, sources said. One, the administration answers all the clarifications sought, and lawmakers let it go through. Two, the lawmakers refuse to allow the use of “foreign military financing”, forcing the administration to look for alternative funding if it still wants to go ahead with the deal.