Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pakistan and the Myth Of Earthquake Relief


Does this look like earthquake relief to you?

In a world where U.S. attack defense policy has become the totality of U.S. foreign policy and arms sales are the only carrot the administration has to offer, it makes sense for those interested in foreign affairs to keep their eyes on arms deal - they speak volumes about true intentions. So it worries the hell out of me that the mainstream media and the hawkish Right who are supposed to be the protectors of U.S. national security have dropped the ball so severely when it comes to one nation - Pakistan. Having said that, at least they are looking at all - most liberals don't give Pakistan a second thought, writing them off as simply a puppet government for the American Empire. All of them are making a huge mistake.

Take for example the latest news that Pakistan intends to reduce its purchase of F-16 fighters from the U.S., ostensibly so that the money saved can be spent on "earthquake relief". The few in the MSM who reported it - and even those abroad where it received a little more coverage - simply reprinted wholesale a report by Farhan Bokhari, a prolific Pakistan-based journalist who has close access to the Musharraf regime but doesn't seem to simply be a regime shill.

The thing is, the report is patently false. Saying that the purchase of American jets has been scaled back to provide earthquake relief is simply ludicrous in the face of a huge rise in the Pakistani defense budget this year. It also flies in the face of reports that the Pakistani government were considering buying the planes they didn't buy from the U.S. - only from Belgium instead.

No, the real reason Pakistan doesn't need to buy so many F-16s anymore is that it intends using part of that massive budget increase to build its own fleet of advanced fighters - and then selling them abroad.

Conceived in 1992, the JF-17 project was jointly undertaken and pursued by Pakistan and China until the first prototype carried out its maiden flight in September 2003.

Pakistan may also begin serial production of the JF-17s by June 2007 as part of its plans to replace ageing aircraft from the inventory of the PAF.

The serial production will start at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which is responsible for overhauling all the combat aircraft of the US, Chinese and French origin, in PAF's inventory.

Known as the "third generation aircraft", JF-17s is basically a lightweight multi-role aircraft, which can fly at a speed of mach 1.6 with an operational ceiling of 55,000 feet.

It will be equipped with Beyond Visual Range capability, a state-of-the-art avionics package to provide an all weather navigation, attack and jamming capability to track and destroy multiple targets.

The jets will also have an integrated avionics and weapons delivery system based on an advanced data bus concept.
It has already decided to do the same with battle tanks - and Saudi Arabia is actively contemplating a massive purchase. Pakistan continues to improve its ballistic missile force and conducted a test-firing of a new missile design today. The Pakistani Prime Minister said of the test "This has enhanced the respect and image of Pakistan. This has reinforced our defence and raised the rank of Pakistan in the comity of nations. It shows the world that Pakistanis are a serious nation."

Let us not forget, too, the proliferation efforts of Pakistani national hero A. Q. Khan - efforts almost certainly made with government backing. Khan is still being shielded by the Pakistani government and there are rumors his network may have started up again.

Then there is General Musharraf himself - a real live dictator, not term-limited and still in uniform while threatening to arrest his main opposition leaders if they ever step foot in Pakistan again. He is adamant he is no panderer to U.S. interests and admits to keeping his true agenda pragmatically hidden. His government and intelligence service is a major sponsor of terrorism in India and Afghanistan

In every respect, Pakistan is currently exactly what the Bush administration accuses the Iranian regime of wishing to be. Only Pakistan is an ally - for now. Musharraf was for the Taliban and al-Qaida before he was against them and if it would help him cling on to power he would switch allegiance again in a heartbeat.

To be gearing up to sanction or even invade Iran while selling Pakistan ever more weaponry is not just a double standard - it is foreign policy incompetence of the highest order. It's not just the Bush administration who should be asked some hard questions here - the Democrats, the media and the blogosphere have also happily ignored the disconnect.