Seeking assistance: Zarb-e-Azb to cost $1.3b, Dar tells US legislator

Published: February 19, 2015
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A file photo of army personnel. PHOTO: REUTERS

A file photo of army personnel. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

The cost of the ongoing military offensive against the Taliban and other militant groups, as well as taking care of the affected internally displaced persons (IDPs) has already reached $400 million (Rs40 billion) and could go as high as $1.3 billion (Rs130 billion), Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told a visiting US legislator on Wednesday.

The finance minister was peaking to Senator Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the US Senate Armed Services Committee, who was accompanied by US Ambassador Richard Olson. Dar briefed Reed and Olson on the progress made during the military operations as well as their financial implications, and sought Washington’s help in defraying some of the costs.

The finance minister said that the cost of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, as well as taking care of the IDPs, had so far hit $400 million and may end up being as high as $1.3 billion. However, he did not provide a breakdown of the costs, and a recent statement of Fiscal Operations released by the finance ministry shows defence spending at Rs330 billion during the first six months of fiscal 2015, which is in line with spending patterns of previous years.

Without explicitly asking for a specific amount from Washington, Dar told Senator Reed that Islamabad faced a severe financial crunch because of the operation and would welcome any international assistance. The finance minister said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb was a major offensive against terrorists and had the full support of the armed forces, all political parties and civil society in Pakistan.

Dar was accompanied by Defence Secretary Muhammad Alam Khattak, a retired lieutenant general, who provided Reed with further details about the operation and the relief efforts for the IDPs, pointing out that the country currently plays host to 5 million refugees, including 3 million Afghan refugees and nearly 2 million IDPs affected by Zarb-e-Azb. Khattak was more explicit in seeking assistance, asking for US investment in health and education in the tribal areas.

For his part, Senator Reed appreciated Islamabad’s decision to target all militant groups, including the Haqqani Network, which the US military has identified as the source of several attacks on their forces in Afghanistan. Reed also agreed that the international community should help Pakistan battle against terrorism.

Senator Reed is rare among members of the Democratic Party in the United States in that he believes that Washington should increase its aid to Pakistan, having said so in a 2010 interview with the Belfer Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The interview, however, was prior to the May 2011 US raid on Abbottabad that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Reed is a particularly important figure because, in addition to serving on the Armed Service Committee in the US Senate, which decides on matters relating to the US military, he also served on the Appropriations Committee, including its subcommittee on Defence, which is the relevant committee that would decide US spending on military aid to Pakistan.

Wednesday’s visit was not the first time Reed has visited Pakistan. He had made at least seven previous trips to Pakistan in the past and has historically been a supporter of stronger US engagement with Islamabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • SEAsian
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:08AM

    Why do you have to tell the US what it costs? Your agencies bred them as strategic assets. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:09AM

    This is the time for the US to step up and assist Pakistan in a major way, especially in FATA:

    Healthcare
    Education
    Job creationRecommend

  • Faris
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:47AM

    @SEAsian:
    So did the US in the cold war. The present is important. The past is history.Recommend

  • M
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:50AM

    US taxpayers have given over 60 billion USD in aid to Pakistan since 1948 (source: Center for Global Development, Washington DC)Recommend

  • Muhammad Salman Usufi
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:50AM

    @seAsian
    Now these are your weapons/strategic assets funded by your govt./agencies through weapons & currency via Afghanistan just to indulge Pakistan Army & weaken Pakistan. We can & we are eradicating them with are sources. Here financial help is desired for Afghan refugees that are the responsibility of the whole world.Recommend

  • Sonya
    Feb 19, 2015 - 10:55AM

    PML N Government is finding excuses not fight the national war on terror – this time for financial reasons. If Pakistan could borrow money for development projects why can’t they borrow for providing security to the nation and begging other nations.Recommend

  • Lord of the Ring
    Feb 19, 2015 - 11:03AM

    According to the brother in law (samdhi) Dar there are 200 billion dollars of Pakistani thieves only in Switzerland banks which they looted from Pakistan.

    Why doesn’t he make real efforts to bring that stolen money back to Pakistan instead of begging for more debt to place on overburdened shoulders of this nation ????Recommend

  • abc
    Feb 19, 2015 - 11:53AM

    Dar why do you want them to help you while you can spend billions on metro and other useless projects.Recommend

  • Hatim
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:02PM

    I wonder how much of the money will go to Dar and his son.Recommend

  • Agent
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:05PM

    Looks like this minister has no shame in begging from any country be it USA, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arab or any European country. You are not doing any favor to any country by indulging in this operation and displacing your own tribesmen but doing it for the very existence of your own country. Recommend

  • Roshan
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:08PM

    @Faris:
    In world politics, nothing is forgotten. Sooner or later, there will be consequences. Recommend

  • oBSERVER
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:09PM

    Why is a member country of UNO permitted to accept illicit money from corrupt persons of another member country.Switzerland is blatantly committing this crime and nobody has questioned this. WHY?Recommend

  • KafirMusafir
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:28PM

    It has been 67 years, when will Pakistan stop begging and behave like a grown country that has self-respect. In which world can beggars have any respect and a seat at the table?Recommend

  • Humor.as.Armor
    Feb 19, 2015 - 1:35PM

    If the US is to fund some of these activities , it must atleast insist that these armymen hold their arms properly . The centre one in the pic is holding his rifle above shoulder as if it is a rocket launcher and all six of them poiting in seven different directions :) Recommend

  • Ezio the realist
    Feb 19, 2015 - 2:23PM

    present Operation are not helping in stopping the suicide bombings. Need a new strategyRecommend

  • Main-Paki-Tho-Nahin
    Feb 19, 2015 - 2:59PM

    I am wondering if Pakistanis are even slightly embarrassed that their government needs donations to do anything in Pakistan. And yet, your Generals and politicians are perhaps among the richest in the world.Recommend

  • Ozzy
    Feb 19, 2015 - 3:21PM

    @Agent what makes you think that the minister has shame , he is from PML-N Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Feb 19, 2015 - 3:28PM

    Dar making us all look like beggars. We have to be clear on this – this is OUR war! And we must fight it on our own.

    If we need assistance it is in the field of funding for Healthcare education etc not thisRecommend

  • woody
    Feb 19, 2015 - 7:31PM

    If you had launched this offensive back when the USA asked they would have paid for the entire operation plus an incentive. You didn’t – in fact you waited until they stopped combat operations and withdrew most of their forces in Afghanistan. No reason the USA should fund any of this operation. Recommend

  • Humza
    Feb 20, 2015 - 6:16AM

    @Ahmed: Perhaps you don’t know that a great deal of the terrorism in the region is blow back from the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The West helped arm fighters against the Soviets and after their defeat many of these fighters, especially foreigners went amok with violence. Pakistan helped defeat the Soviet Union, bring an end to the Cold War and saved the US trillions. After the region was abandoned and Pakistan alone was left to clean up the mess, it would like help from allies who wish to see peace in the region.Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Feb 20, 2015 - 11:24PM

    Isn’t the operation underway to ensure peace and stability within Pakistan? If so, why should the US be paying for it? What if US doesn’t pay the money – will Pakistan stop the operation and let the terrorists recapture the territory?

    This is a classic case of negotiating by putting a gun to one’s own head and demanding that the other party give in to the demand! Recommend

  • Nasir Jan
    Feb 21, 2015 - 12:45AM

    we are BeggeristanRecommend

  • observer
    Feb 21, 2015 - 10:14AM

    @M:

    “US taxpayers have given over 60 billion USD in aid to Pakistan since 1948 (source: Center for Global Development, Washington DC)”

    Actually, the figure is close to $250B in today’s dollars. Recommend

  • observer
    Feb 21, 2015 - 10:25AM

    @Pakistani:

    “This is the time for the US to step up and assist Pakistan in a major way, especially in FATA: Healthcare Education Job creation”

    Isn’t that the responsibility of Pakistani government and nation to do these for its people? Why should the US taxpayer pay other countries to take care of their fundamental national responsibilities?Recommend

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