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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

[CRS Issue Brief for Congress]

94041: Pakistan-U.S. Relations

Updated May 28, 1998

Barbara Leitch LePoer

Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division


The major areas of U.S. concern in Pakistan are nuclear weapons and missile proliferation, regional stability, democratization and human rights, and economic reforms and development. An ongoing Pakistan-India nuclear arms race, fueled by rivalry over Kashmir, continues to be the focus of U.S. nonproliferation efforts in South Asia and a major issue in U.S. relations with both countries. This attention intensified after Pakistan's May 28 nuclear tests, which followed India's tests of May 11 and 13, 1998. South Asia is viewed by some experts as one of the most likely prospects for use of such weapons. India has developed short- and intermediate-range missiles, and Pakistan has acquired short-to-medium range M-11 ballistic missiles or components from China. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947.

The Pakistan-U.S. relationship, which dates from the mid-1950s, began as a security arrangement based on U.S. concern over Soviet expansion and Pakistan's fear of neighboring India. Cooperation reached its high point during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. A deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan ties in recent years stems from the U.S. cutoff of aid to Pakistan because of its nuclear weapons program. In October 1990, U.S. aid and most arms sales to Pakistan were suspended when President Bush could not certify to Congress, as required under Section 620E(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) (the so-called "Pressler amendment"), that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have considered good relations with Pakistan as key to U.S. interests in both South and Southwest Asia, and sought more flexibility in dealing with Pakistan than allowed under the Pressler amendment. In February 1996, the President signed into law the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for FY1996, which included provisions that relax restrictions on economic assistance to Pakistan and permitted a one-time release of $368 million in military hardware ordered by Pakistan prior to the aid cutoff.

The nuclear issue aside, U.S. interests strongly support a stable, democratic, economically thriving Pakistan that would serve as a model for the volatile and/or newly independent countries of West and Central Asia. Although ruled by military regimes for most of its existence, Pakistan has had democratic governments since 1988 as a result of national elections in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997. The government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who came to power in October 1993, was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari in November 1996, under constitutional provisions that have been used to dismiss four governments since 1985. In February 1997, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League won a two-thirds majority in free and fair parliamentary elections. The new government faces many pressing and longstanding problems, including revival of the economy, consolidation of democracy, and improvement of relations with neighboring India. The United States strongly supports efforts by the Nawaz Sharif government to continue Pakistan's economic reform and market-opening, as well as efforts to improve relations with India. Congress and the Administration, however, continue to be concerned about reported narcotics and terrorist activity, as well as human rights abuses, particularly of women, children, and minorities.


On May 28, 1998, Pakistan announced that it had conducted five underground nuclear tests at about 3:30 p.m. that same afternoon, Pakistan time. For reasons that are not clear, Pakistan's foreign minister initially told journalists that two tests had been conducted. U.S. officials confirmed that blasts had been detected but offered no information on the number or power of the explosions. In explaining his decision to order the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif laid heavy stress on provocative statements about the Kashmir dispute by Indian political leaders following that country's tests on May 11 and 13, 1998, and on the failure of the international community to apply meaningful sanctions against India. He underscored the symbolism of Pakistan's response by noting that Pakistan had matched India bomb for bomb. Pakistani officials have made no claim to have tested thermonuclear device, unlike India, which claims to have tested four fission bombs and one thermonuclear, or "hydrogen," bomb. Late in the morning on May 28, 1998, Washington time, President Clinton expressed deep regret that Pakistan had decided to follow India's lead, and announced that he would invoke the same sanctions on Pakistan as had been invoked against India. These consist, primarily, of sanctions under Sec. 102 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA.) Private analysts estimate that the sanctions will cost Pakistan several billions of dollars in U.S. and other bilateral and multilateral assistance and trade credits.


Context of the Relationship

Historical Background

The long and checkered U.S.-Pakistan relationship has its roots in the Cold War and South Asia regional politics of the 1950s. U.S. concern about Soviet expansion and Pakistan's desire for security assistance against a perceived threat from India prompted the two countries to negotiate a mutual defense assistance agreement in May 1954. By late 1955, Pakistan had further aligned itself with the West by joining two regional defense pacts, the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Baghdad Pact (later Central Treaty Organization, CENTO). As a result of these alliances and a 1959 U.S.-Pakistan cooperation agreement, Pakistan received more than $700 million in military grant aid in 1955-65. U.S. economic aid to Pakistan between 1951 and 1982 totaled more than $5 billion.

Differing expectations of the security relationship have long bedeviled ties. During the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, the United States suspended military assistance to both sides, resulting in a cooling of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. In the mid-1970s, new strains arose over Pakistan's apparent efforts to respond to India's 1974 underground test of a nuclear device by seeking its own capability to build a nuclear bomb. Although limited U.S. military aid to Islamabad was resumed in 1975, it was suspended again by the Carter Administration in April 1979, under Section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), because of Pakistan's secret construction of a uranium enrichment facility.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, Pakistan was again viewed as a frontline state against Soviet expansionism. An offer to Pakistan of $400 million in economic and security aid by the Carter Administration in early 1980 was turned down by President Zia-ul Haq as "peanuts." In September 1981, however, the Reagan Administration, negotiated a $3.2 billion, five-year economic and military aid package with Pakistan. Congress facilitated the resumption of aid in December by adding Section 620E to the FAA, giving the President authority to waive Section 669 for six years in the case of Pakistan, on grounds of national interest. Pakistan became a funnel for arms supplies to the Afghan resistance, as well as a camp for three million Afghan refugees.

Despite the renewal of U.S. aid and close security ties, many in Congress remained concerned about Pakistan's nuclear program, based, in part, on evidence of U.S. export control violations that suggested a crash program to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. In 1985, Section 620E(e) (the so-called Pressler amendment) was added to the FAA, requiring the President to certify to Congress that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device during the fiscal year for which aid is to be provided. The Pressler amendment represented a compromise between those in Congress who thought that aid to Pakistan should be cut off because of evidence that it was continuing to develop its nuclear option and those who favored continued support for Pakistan's role in opposing Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Another $4 billion, six- year aid package for Pakistan was signed in 1986.

With the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, beginning in May 1988, however, Pakistan's nuclear activities again came under close U.S. scrutiny. In October 1990, President Bush suspended aid to Pakistan because he was unable to make the necessary certification to Congress. Under the provisions of the Pressler amendment, all military aid to Pakistan was stopped and deliveries of major military equipment suspended. Also affected by the aid cutoff was an economic aid request for FY1991 totaling about $150 million. Under Section 552 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriation Act, added in 1992, provision of P.L. 480 food aid was permitted. Narcotics assistance of $3-5 million annually, administered by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, was exempted from the aid cutoff.

Pakistan-India Rivalry

Three wars and a constant state of military preparedness on both sides of the border have marked the half-century of bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan. The acrimonious nature of the partition of British India into two successor states in 1947 and the continuing dispute over Kashmir have been major sources of tension, leading both countries to devote comparatively large resources to building defense establishments that include a nuclear weapons capability as well as the development of ballistic missile programs. The Kashmir problem is rooted in claims by both countries to the former princely state, divided by a military line of control, since 1948, into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Azad (Free) Kashmir. India blames Pakistan for supporting a separatist movement raging in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley that has claimed 20,000 lives since 1990. Pakistan admits only to lending moral and political support to the rebellion, while accusing India of creating dissension in Pakistan's Sindh province.

From 1994 until late 1996, relations between Pakistan and India appeared to be in a constant state of deterioration with an increase in hostile rhetoric as well as heightened border tensions in Kashmir. Although foreign secretary talks were held in Islamabad in early January 1994, little progress was made. Both Islamabad and New Delhi frequently accused the other of harassing, intimidating, or manhandling its diplomats, despite a diplomatic code of conduct agreement signed in 1992. Both countries engaged in the now-common practice of expelling members of the other's diplomatic corps on charges of espionage. India's April-May 1996 parliamentary elections included polling for six seats for Jammu and Kashmir State, over the objections of Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists. The elections brought to power in India new United Front coalition government headed by Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. Although Prime Minister Gowda and Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto exchanged friendly letters expressing their mutual interest in reviving foreign secretary talks, relations soured again when India held Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in September 1996, over the objections of Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists.

By early 1997, there were signs of a thaw in India-Pakistan relations, related in part to changes in leadership in the two countries. Foreign secretary talks, which had been broken off since January 1994, were reinstated and three sets of talks were held during 1997. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also met with Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral several times during the year for talks that reportedly were cordial. In May 1997, the two leaders agreed to set up a hot line between them; exchange civilian prisoners, including several hundred fishermen; ease travel restrictions; and resume foreign secretary talks.

In June 1997, the two foreign secretaries met and agreed on an agenda for future talks to set up working groups. These groups are slated to tackle a range of bilateral issues, including: peace and security; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen Glacier; terrorism and drug-trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation; Sir Creek estuary on the Arabian Sea; and Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation project in Kashmir. In late November 1997, a political crisis in India resulted in the resignation of the Gujral government. Foreign secretary talks again were put on hold until after the Indian parliamentary election in February-March 1998.

Pakistan Political Setting

Military regimes have ruled Pakistan for half of its 50 years, interspersed between periods of generally weak civilian governance. Since 1988, Pakistan has had democratically elected governments and the army appears to have moved from its traditional role of power wielder or kingmaker toward one of power broker or referee.

Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), became the first democratically elected leader since her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was deposed, and later executed, in a coup led by General Mohammad Zia-ul Haq in 1977. After spending years in prison and under house arrest, Benazir Bhutto was elected prime minister in October 1988, following President Zia's death in a plane crash. Despite the restoration of democratic process to Pakistan in 1988, the succeeding years have been marred by political instability, economic problems, and ethnic and sectarian violence. In August 1990, Bhutto was dismissed by President Ishaq Khan for alleged corruption and inability to maintain law and order. The president's power to dismiss the prime minister derived from Eighth Amendment provisions of the Pakistan constitution, which dated from the era of Zia's presidency.

Elections held in October 1990 brought to power the coalition Islamic Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A power struggle between Sharif and President Ishaq Khan in early 1993, however, led to Sharif's ouster under the Eighth Amendment provisions. In an encouraging sign of continuing democratization, the military resisted the temptation to take charge during the ensuing period of political turmoil. Rather, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Abdul Waheed Kakar brokered a settlement in which both the prime minister and president resigned, a neutral caretaker government was formed, and new elections were scheduled for October.

In the relatively peaceful and fair October 1993 elections, supervised by the army, Benazir Bhutto regained power at the head of a PPP-led coalition government. Bhutto began her second term in office in a considerably improved position over her first administration. She had the backing of the army and the new president, Farooq Leghari, was a long-time PPP leader. Nevertheless, the Bhutto government faced serious problems, including a PML-led opposition seemingly bent on its downfall; economic problems made worse by drought-induced power shortages and crop failures; and increasing ethnic and religious turmoil, particularly in Sindh Province. Moreover, Bhutto's second term was marred by family squabbles with her mother Nusrat Bhutto, and her brother Murtaza, who had returned to Pakistan in 1993, after 16 years in exile, to contest the October elections. According to some observers, the Bhutto government's performance also was hampered by the reemergence of Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, in a decision-making role. Zardari's role in the previous Bhutto government was believed to have been a factor in her dismissal. He served two years in jail on corruption charges, but subsequently was acquitted.

One of the most serious questions faced by the Bhutto government was how to end the violence in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province and the commercial capital and largest city in the country. According to Western business analysts, the violence in Karachi has presented a serious disincentive for foreign investors. Much of the violence has related to struggles since 1992 between the government and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) political party, which represents Urdu-speaking Muslims, and their descendants, who migrated from India at the time of Partition in 1947. More than 800 people were killed in Karachi in 1994, 2,000 people in 1995, and 500 in 1996 as a result of fighting between government forces and the MQM, as well as fighting between factions of the MQM; Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim factions; rival druglords; and criminal gangs. Further, but unrelated, violence in Sindh claimed the life of Murtaza Bhutto, who was shot, along with six aides, by police outside his Karachi home in September 1996.

On November 5, 1996, Pakistan President Farooq Leghari dismissed the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and dissolved the Pakistan National Assembly and scheduled new elections for February 3, 1997. In his proclamation dismissing the government, Leghari cited widespread "corruption, nepotism, and violation of rules in the administration of the affairs of the Government", as well as failure of the Bhutto government to stop extrajudicial killings in Karachi and elsewhere. The dismissal had been widely predicted as a result of growing popular dissatisfaction with Pakistan's economic situation and allegations of serious government mismanagement and corruption. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who had become a major target of such allegations, was placed under detention by the interim government, where he currently remains. Although Pakistan Army involvement in the dismissal reportedly was limited to deploying troops to secure a few key installations, most analysts noted that the president's action would not have been taken without support of the military. In dismissing the government, President Leghari used the Eighth Amendment powers, which have been used to dismiss four governments since 1985. Although the dismissal was viewed by many observers as an opportunity for a new approach to the country's serious economic and social problems, it was also seen as an indication of the inherent weakness in Pakistan's democratic political structure and organizations.

On February 3, 1997, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, which despite low voter turnout, international observers judged to be generally free and fair. The elections were a serious defeat for Bhutto and the PPP. Since then, Sharif has moved to consolidate his power by curtailing the powers of the President and the judiciary. In April 1997, the Parliament passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution, which deleted the President's former Eighth Amendment powers to dismiss the government and to appoint armed forces chiefs and provincial governors. The new amendment was passed unanimously by both houses of parliament and signed by President Leghari.

In November 1997, President Leghari was drawn into a dispute between Prime Minister Sharif and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah over the appointment of judges. In the ensuing power struggle and constitutional crisis, Leghari resigned as president, in early December, and Shah was replaced as chief justice. Sharif chose Mohammad Rafiq Tarar to succeed Leghari as president. On January 1, 1998, Tarar was sworn in following a vote by the electoral college. As a result of these developments and the continuing solid PML control of the Parliament, Nawaz Sharif has emerged as one of Pakistan's strongest elected leaders since independence. In view of the weak state of the Pakistan economy and the deteriorating law and order situation, however, the Sharif government has its work cut out for it.

Pakistan-U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues

U.S. policy interests in Pakistan encompass a wide range of issues, including: nuclear weapons and missile proliferation; South Asian regional stability; democratization and human rights; economic reforms and market opening; and efforts to counter terrorism and narcotics. These concerns have been affected by several developments in recent years, including: 1) the cutoff of U.S. aid to Pakistan in 1990 over the nuclear issue; 2) India and Pakistan's worsening relationship over the Kashmir issue since 1990, and their continuing nuclear standoff; and 3) Pakistan's see-saw attempts to develop a stable democratic government and strong economy in the post- Cold War era.

U.S. Aid Cut-off

The longstanding U.S.-Pakistan relationship has experienced a downturn in recent years because of Pakistan's continued pursuit of the nuclear option and the consequent cutoff of U.S. aid to Pakistan. Aid was suspended in 1990 under the Pressler amendment, which requires an annual certification by the U.S. President that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear device. Both Congress and the Administration have become increasingly alarmed in recent years by the ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile arms race in South Asia, which is driven largely by the continuing India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. In testifying before the Senate in late 1993, CIA Director James Woolsey described the India-Pakistan arms race as posing "perhaps the most probable prospect for future use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons." Both Congress and the Clinton Administration have placed a high priority on pursuing a policy of seeking a regional negotiated solution to the issue of nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia.

A second major concern of both Congress and the Administration is that Pakistan continue its progress along the path of democratization and economic development. With this in view, Congress in 1992 partially relaxed the scope of the aid cutoff to allow for food assistance and continuing support for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). A small counter-narcotics assistance program has also been continued. In September 1994, the Clinton administration announced a $10 million Agency for International Development grant for a child survival/maternal health program to be administered through NGOs. P.L. 480 food aid totaled about $5 million in both FY1997 and FY1998. The Clinton Administration has requested $350,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET) for FY1999.

One of the most serious results of the aid cutoff for Pakistan has been the nondelivery of some 71 F-16 fighter aircraft ordered in 1989, 28 of which Pakistan has already paid for. In January 1995, Secretary Perry told the Pakistanis that the Defense Department would try to find another buyer for the F-16s, in order to refund Pakistan the $658 million paid for the fighter planes. During an official visit to the United States in early April, Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto requested the release of the planes or the refund of Pakistan's money. In a joint press conference, President Clinton told Bhutto that he would "ask Congress to show some flexibility" on the aid cut-off "so that we can have some economic and military cooperation." By early 1998, no progress had been made on finding an alternative buyer for the F-16s. Deeply frustrated by the nondelivery of its planes and the nonrefund of its money, the Pakistan government is reported to be close to going to court over the matter, before the statute of limitations runs out in 1999.

Provisions included in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for FY1996 relaxed somewhat the restrictions on aid to Pakistan. Contained in an amendment introduced by Senator Hank Brown, the provisions allow certain types of economic aid to Pakistan, as well as a one-time release of $368 million in military hardware ordered before the 1990 aid cutoff. An amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for FY1998, sponsored by Senators Harkin and Warner, restored Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) coverage for U.S. investments in Pakistan.

Nuclear Weapons and Missile Proliferation

High on the list of U.S. objectives in South Asia is the prevention of nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation, along with the reduction of regional tensions that could trigger the use of such weapons. On May 11 and 13, India conducted a total of five underground nuclear tests, breaking a 24-year self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing. The tests, which appear to have completely surprised the U.S. intelligence and policy community, set off a world-wide storm of protest.

A Pakistani government official acknowledged in February 1992 that his country has the capacity for making at least one nuclear weapon, and some analysts believe it has enough enriched uranium for 10-15 weapons. India is thought to have sufficient fissionable material to produce 75 or more nuclear weapons.

Both India and Pakistan have combat aircraft that, with modification, would be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Both countries are seeking to develop or acquire ballistic missiles with the capability of striking each other's major population centers. India has tested its short-range Prithvi surface-to-surface missile and its Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), Agni. Pakistan also has tested short and intermediate- range missiles, the technology for which was reportedly obtained from China.

In late 1995, the United States became concerned over reports of increasing tension and nuclear proliferation in South Asia. In December 1995, U.S. press reports -- based on U.S. intelligence leaks -- suggested that India was preparing to test a nuclear weapon at Pokaran in the Rajasthan desert, where it conducted its first and only nuclear test in 1974. India denied the reports. In February 1996, the U.S. press reported on leaked U.S. intelligence reports alleging that China sold ring magnets to Pakistan, in 1995, that could be used in enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. Pakistan denied the reports, as well as press reports in early March that it was preparing for its first underground nuclear test in the event that India conducted a nuclear explosion.

Neither India nor Pakistan are a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Although Pakistan joined the 158 nations in the United Nations General Assembly who voted, in September 1996, to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it said it will not sign the treaty unless India does. India, Bhutan, and Libya voted against the treaty, while five other nations abstained. "Pakistan cannot be oblivious to threats to its security which are intensified by India's position on the nuclear test ban treaty," according to a September 1996 statement by a Pakistan government spokesman. "Pakistan, in view of its security concerns, cannot accept unilateral commitments," he said.

In June 1997, the Washington Post reported that India had moved Prithvi missiles to a site in northwest Punjab State. Pakistan Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan responded to the report on June 4, saying "India has created a dangerous security environment." U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns stated on June 4, "We would see that the deployment by either [India or Pakistan] of ballistic missiles would be fundamentally contrary to the recent good progress made in the relationship....We hope this will be one of the central issues in their own discussions -- the prevention of a deployment of ballistic missiles in either country." On June 11, Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral denied that India had deployed missiles on the border with Pakistan. According to various unconfirmed news reports, fewer than a dozen Prithvi missiles have been stored, but not deployed, near Jullundur in Punjab State.

On April 6, 1998, Pakistan successfully tested its medium-range Ghauri missile, reported to have a range of 1,500 kilometers and a payload of 700 kilograms. U.S. State Department officials called the test "regrettable" and urged Pakistan and India to exercise restraint in their arms programs. On April 27, the New York Times quoted an unnamed Clinton Administration official as saying that Russia is helping India to build a sea-launched ballistic missile. Both India and Russia denied the report.

The China Factor. Attempts to convince Pakistan to unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons program have been met by the response that Islamabad will only take this step if India does likewise. India, for its part, insists that it will agree only to a nondiscriminatory global nuclear nonproliferation regime, including the abandonment of nuclear arms by China. India and China fought a brief border war in 1962, and relations between the two remained tense for three decades, each deploying troops along a line of control that serves as the boundary. In September 1993, China and India signed an agreement to reduce troops and maintain peace along the line of control that divides their forces. Despite this thaw in relations, the India-China boundary has yet to be settled, and India remains suspicious of China's military might.

Pakistan and China, on the other hand, have enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship over the same three decades. Pakistan served as a link between Beijing and Washington in 1971, as well as a bridge to the Muslim world for China in the 1980s. China's continuing role as a major arms supplier for Pakistan began in the 1960s, and included helping to build a number of arms factories in Pakistan, as well as supplying arms. In September 1990, China agreed to supply Pakistan with components for M-11 surface-to-surface missiles, which brought warnings from the United States. Although it is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), China agreed to abide by the restrictions of the MTCR, which bans the transfer of missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers and a payload of more than 500 kilograms. In August 1993, the United States determined that China had transferred to Pakistan prohibited missile technology and imposed trade sanctions on both countries. Under the sanctions, export of high technology equipment to one Pakistan and 11 Chinese entities (government ministries and aerospace companies) was banned for two years. In early October 1994, the United States agreed to end sanctions against China in return for a pledge by China not to export missiles banned under the MTCR.

A July 1995, Washington Post report quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that the U.S. intelligence community has evidence that China has given Pakistan complete medium-range ballistic missiles. The officials reportedly claim that U.S. intelligence experts have "incontrovertible" evidence that storage crates at Pakistan's Sargodha Air Force Base, northwest of Lahore, contain more that 30 Chinese-made M-11 missiles. Both Pakistan and China have denied the report. In June 1997, the Clinton Administration stated that it had not made a determination that China and Pakistan have engaged in sanctionable activity through transfer of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)-class missiles to Pakistan, but was continuing to review the situation.

Balancing the India-Pakistan Equation. U.S. policymakers often find themselves caught up in the zero-sum game of South Asia politics. U.S. initiatives in the region are invariably described by Pakistan and India as "tilting" toward one or the other. Any warming of U.S.-India relations is viewed as a negative for U.S.-Pakistan relations, and vice versa. The United States was alarmed by the increasing tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir in early 1990, given the suspected nuclear capabilities of each. The Bush Administration reportedly warned Islamabad and New Delhi and strongly encouraged both governments to adopt some previously-negotiated confidence-building measures in order to reduce the tension. Measures adopted so far include: agreement on advance notice of military movements; establishment of a military commander "hotline"; an exchange of lists of nuclear installations and facilities; agreement not to attack each other's nuclear facilities; a joint ban on use and production of chemical weapons; and measures to prevent air space violations. Although such measures have had some effect, a continuing flow of accusations and rhetoric from both sides have kept tensions high and hampered negotiation.

The United States has held numerous talks in a range of formats on South Asian regional security and nonproliferation issues with Pakistan and India since 1992. U.S. officials have urged Pakistan and India to adopt a number of additional confidence-building measures for the near-term, including an agreement not to conduct nuclear tests, a cutoff of fissile material production, and the placement of safeguards on nuclear facilities. Recognizing that regional security is dependent on reduction of underlying tensions, the United States in recent discussions with India and Pakistan has made the following suggestions: that India and Pakistan open a dialogue on Kashmir, leading initially to the demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier area; that both countries reduce conventional arms and defense expenditures; and that both countries agree to stop involving themselves in each other's regional unrest.

Administration Nonproliferation Initiatives. While Pakistan has been faced with the effects of the post-cold war aid cutoff, U.S. policymakers have had to confront the reality that the aid cutoff has done little to deter Pakistan's nuclear program or promote the goal of regional nonproliferation. Pakistan so far has refused to take the necessary steps to permit the Presidential certification required by the Pressler amendment, and India is not affected by the Pressler constraints. Both the Bush and Clinton Administrations have considered good relations with Pakistan as key to U.S. interests in Southwest Asia and have sought more flexibility in dealing with Pakistan for this reason.

In a move to strengthen U.S. security ties with Pakistan and India, U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry visited both countries in early January 1995, the first visit to the region by a U.S. Defense Secretary since the waning days of the Cold War. Perry's visit focused on ways to further peace and stability in the region, as well as expand areas of defense cooperation, including peacekeeping efforts. Secretary Perry asserted U.S. intentions to maintain an even-handed approach in its relations with Pakistan and India. He also underscored Washington's understanding of the security concerns of both Islamabad and New Delhi. Rather than stressing the U.S. preference for a rollback of both countries' nuclear programs, Secretary Perry urged India and Pakistan not to deploy short-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Both countries were urged to adopt a commitment to greater transparency with each other by exchanging defense budgets and planning, as a means of mutual confidence-building. Perry also restated the U.S. offer to provide whatever help it can in finding a solution to the Kashmir problem, if requested by both parties.

In September 1997, President Clinton met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Gujral at the United Nations in New York. The meeting was followed by a series of visits to the subcontinent by high level Clinton Administration officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who visited Pakistan and India in November 1997. The visits were billed as part of a Clinton Administration initiative to boost U.S. engagement in South Asia. President Clinton is expected to visit the region in late 1998, the first president to do so since President Carter's visit in 1978.

On April 15-17, 1998, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, visited Pakistan during his five-nation South Asia tour, which analysts viewed as part of a Clinton Administration effort to expand U.S. relations in the region. Richardson told newsmen in Islamabad: "We are here to signal the importance for the United States of South Asia, to signal the importance of Pakistan as an important, strategic, economic and political ally."

Concerned that India's actions would prompt Pakistan and other countries to follow suit, the Clinton Administration dispatched a high-level team, headed by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, to Islamabad.

Pakistan-U.S. Military Cooperation

The U.S. and Pakistan militaries have enjoyed a close working relationship for several decades. Although military assistance is barred under the aid cutoff, communication and cooperation has continued. The U.S.-Pakistan Consultative Group was reestablished during the 1995 visit of Secretary Perry to Islamabad. Formed in 1984 and dormant since the 1990 aid cutoff, the group serves as the basis for defense cooperation planning, including joint military exercises, peacekeeping operations, regional security issues, and exchange of intelligence. Pakistan and U.S. forces have held joint military exercises in Pakistan annually over the past several years, most recently in June 1997. In recent years, Pakistan has been a leading country in supporting U.N. peacekeeping efforts with troops and observers. Some 5,000 Pakistani troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War efforts in 1990. Pakistani troops played an important role in the U.S.-led humanitarian operations in Somalia from 1992 to 1994. In April 1998, there were 125 Pakistani troops and observers participating in U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Croatia, Haiti, and other countries.

Democratization and Human Rights

Democratization Efforts. The United States strongly supports Pakistan's return to the democratic election process since 1988. National elections, judged by domestic and international observers to be generally free and fair, were held in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997. Key to this development has been the apparent willingness of the Pakistan military to step back and allow the evolution of a democratic polity. During a political crisis in 1992, Chief of Army Staff General Asif Nawaz Janjua (1991- 93), stated his full support for the democratic order under a civilian government and ruled out the reimposition of martial law. His successor, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, also demonstrated his commitment to democratic processes by his role in brokering the 1993 crisis, which resulted in new elections. In January 1996, President Farooq Leghari appointed, as Chief of Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat, who has continued the military's apparent support for consolidation of democracy in Pakistan. Despite rumors and fears that the Pakistan army would step into the November-December 1997 constitutional crisis, other than mediation attempts by General Karamat, the military appeared to stay out of the fray.

Pakistan's road to full democracy is still lined with many pitfalls, including wide- scale corruption, volatile mass-based politics, and continuing lack of symmetry between the development of the military and civilian bureaucracies and political institutions. In recent years, critics contended that Pakistan's democratization efforts were being undermined by the politics of confrontation between parties and leaders that flourishes at the expense of effective government. The lack of constructive debate and frequent walkouts and boycotts of the national and provincial assemblies often led to paralysis and instability. Although many of these problems were reduced by the overwhelming parliamentary majority won by the PML in the February 1997 elections, the major political parties continue to be lacking in grassroots organization and responsiveness to the electorate.

Human Rights Problems. The U.S. State Department, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, issued in January 1997, stated: "Although the Government has publicly pledged to address human rights problems, particularly those involving women, child labor, and minority religions, the overall human rights situation remains poor." The report cited security forces for committing extrajudicial killings, using arbitrary arrest and detention, torturing and abusing prisoners and detainees, and raping women. Political and religious groups also reportedly engaged in killings and persecution of their rivals and ethnic and religious minorities. In recent years, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Amnesty International have issued reports critical of abuses of the rights of women and minorities. According to the reports, rape is a serious problem, particularly rape of minors and gang rape. The State Department also noted is a high rate of abuse of female prisoners -- including rape and torture -- by male police officers. Women also suffer discrimination in education, employment, and legal rights.

Religious minorities -- mainly Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadi Muslims -- are reportedly subjected to discriminatory laws and social intolerance. A 1974 amendment to the Pakistan constitution declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because they do not accept Muhammad as the last prophet. The Zia government, in 1984, made it illegal for an Ahmadi to call himself a Muslim or use Muslim terminology. Blasphemy laws, instituted under the Zia regime and strengthened by the Sharif government, carry a mandatory death penalty for blaspheming the Prophet or his family. Blasphemy charges reportedly are usually brought as a result of personal or religious vendettas. More than 100 Ahmadis have been charged with blasphemy since 1986, and four Christians charged with the crime were murdered in 1993. In early 1997, there were 10 blasphemy law cases pending against Christians and 144 against Ahmadis.

Economic Issues

Economic Reforms and Market Opening. Although Pakistan is a relatively poor country with a per capita GDP of about $400, its annual growth rate for 1980-92 averaged 5-6% The country's wealth traditionally has been concentrated in the hands of a relatively few socially dominant large landowners and a small group of commercial and industrial families. As a result of nationalization in the 1970s under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, about 40% of the country's manufacturing value until recently was produced by public sector industries. After two decades of central planning and public sector dominance, Pakistan, like other South Asian countries, found its economy lagging far behind those of East and Southeast Asia. Spurred by dwindling foreign exchange reserves, growing budget deficits, and prodding by international lenders, in 1991 the Nawaz Sharif government embarked on a program of ambitious economic restructuring. Reforms included liberalizing trade by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers; encouraging investment through deregulation and incentives; and privatizing 65 of the country's 115 state-owned industries. The reform movement lost its momentum by 1993, partly as a result of the political turmoil of that year and serious flooding the previous year that wreaked havoc on homes, crops, and infrastructure. Pakistan's economy grew by only 2.3% in the 1992-93 fiscal year, while the budget deficit rose to 7.5% and inflation to 10%.

Under the second Bhutto government, the Pakistan economy began a further downward slide. Under a February 1994 agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government promised three years of austerity and deficit cutting in return for a $1.5 billion package of IMF credits. Many obstacles lay in the path of this ambitious plan, however, including rising unemployment, strikes and violence in Karachi, a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, widespread tax evasion, weak infrastructure, and a defense budget that absorbs nearly 40% of government spending. Moreover, drought resulted in hydroelectric power shortages and seriously reduced wheat crop yields, while the cotton crop was hard hit by a virus. By mid-1995, budget and trade deficits were widening, foreign reserves declining, and inflation running at 13% officially and 20% unofficially. The IMF withheld 1995 disbursements because of Pakistan's failure to meet the agreed targets or propose a 1996 budget that met the lending conditions.

Among the most serious problems faced by the new Nawaz Sharif government is the revival of Pakistan's economy. By early 1997, the country's foreign debt totaled some $30 billion; its gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate had slid to 3%; inflation had reached 12%; foreign reserves were less than $1 billion (about five weeks of imports); heavy debt repayment bills fall due later this year; and both foreign and domestic investors appeared to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Analysts point to the pressing need to broaden the country's tax base in order to provide increased revenue for investment in improved infrastructure, health, and education, all prerequisites for economic development. Less than 1% of Pakistanis currently pay taxes. Agricultural income has not been taxed in the past, largely because of the domination of parliament and the provincial assemblies by wealthy landlords.

In April 1997, the Nawaz Sharif government proposed an ambitious economic reform package to jump-start the economy, including widespread tax reduction, lowering of import tariffs, broadening the tax base, and improving tax collection methods. In early May, Pakistan Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz discussed his plans to get the economy back on track in a non-pledging session with the Pakistan Development Forum (formerly the Aid-to-Pakistan Consortium) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In September, the IMF agreed to a three-year loan package of $1.56 billion to help Pakistan with its balance-of-payment problems. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan will be able to reach the targets set by the IMF as conditions for the loan. Over the long term, analysts believe Pakistan's resources and comparatively well-developed entrepreneurial skills hold promise for more rapid economic growth and development. This is particularly true for Pakistan's textile industry, which accounts for 60% of Pakistan's exports.

Trade and Trade Issues. In 1997, U.S. exports to Pakistan totaled $1.2 billion and imports from Pakistan totaled $1.4 billion. The United States has been strongly supportive of Pakistan's economic reform efforts, begun under the first Nawaz Sharif government in 1991. Despite substantial reforms, there are still some barriers to market access. About 68 items are either restricted or banned from importation for reasons related to religion, national security, luxury consumption, or protection of local industries. In late March 1997, the Sharif government cut import tariffs from a maximum of 65% to 45%, with an average tariff rate of 16.6. U.S. companies have complained repeatedly about violations of their intellectual property rights in the areas of patents and copyrights. Pakistan's patent law currently protects only processes, not products, from infringement. In late 1992, Pakistan expanded its copyright law to provide coverage for such works as computer software and videos. Although enforcement of the law was stepped up in 1996, a serious backlog of cases remains in the court system. The International Intellectual Property Alliance has estimated trade losses of $70 million in 1997 as a result of pirated films, sound recordings, computer programs, and books.


In recent years, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has supplied a reported 20-40% of heroin consumed in the United States and 70% of that consumed in Europe. The region is second only to Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle as a source of the world's heroin. Opium grown in Afghanistan and Pakistan is processed into heroin in more than 100 illegal laboratories in tribal areas of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, where central government control is weak or nonexistent. Although much of the heroin is smuggled by land and sea routes to Europe and the United States, a substantial portion is consumed by Pakistan's rapidly expanding domestic market. The Pakistan government estimates that of the 3 million drug addicts in the country, 1.5 million are addicted to heroin. Moreover, according to some experts, Pakistan's drug economy amounts to as much as $20 billion. Drug money reportedly is used to buy influence throughout Pakistan's economic and political systems.

Pakistan's counternarcotics efforts are hampered by a number of factors, including: lack of government commitment; scarcity of funds; poor infrastructure in drug-producing regions; government wariness of provoking unrest in tribal areas; and corruption among police, government officials, and local politicians. U.S. antinarcotics aid to Pakistan administered by the Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM) International Narcotics Control Program was reduced from $4.2 million in FY1993 to $2.5 million in FY1997 and $1.5 million in FY1998. The FY1999 Administration request is for $2.5 million. The major counternarcotics efforts engaged in by the Pakistan government, some of which receive U.S. or U.N. support, include: improved law enforcement; reduction of demand; opium crop destruction and crop substitution; and outreach programs that include supplying roads, irrigation, drinking water, and schools to remote tribal areas. According to some analysts, the reduction of U.S. antinarcotics aid has cut economic development programs in the poppy-growing areas that reportedly have been successful in reducing opium production.

To date, the Pakistan government, which spends less than 1% of its budget on antidrug efforts, has lacked the necessary commitment to counter its growing problem of narcotics production, trafficking, and addiction. Although the Bhutto government was severely criticized for failure to cooperate with U.S. Government counter-narcotics efforts in the 1996 State Department annual narcotics report, in March 1997, the Clinton Administration waived drug sanctions against Pakistan on grounds of U.S. national security interests. The State Department noted some improvement in counter-narcotics efforts under the Nawaz Sharif government in 1997. Although not certified as cooperating fully, on February 26, 1998, Pakistan again received a waiver on the basis of the vital national interest of the United States.


According to the U.S. State Department 1997 report on global terrorism, there was continuing terrorist-related violence in Pakistan as a result of domestic conflicts. Sectarian violence, mainly between militants of the Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim sects, resulted in about 175 deaths in 1996, and has cost more than 170 lives by August 1997. The Nawaz Sharif government announced in early May that it would set up a task force and enact new legislation to combat terrorism and sectarian violence.

In February 1995, Pakistan and U.S. officials cooperated closely in apprehending in Islamabad the suspected mastermind of the New York World Trade Center bombing, who was quickly extradited to the United States. In a possibly related incident, two Americans on their way to work at the U.S. consulate in Karachi were shot and killed in March 1995. On November 12, 1997, four American employees of Union Texas Petroleum Co. and their Pakistani driver were killed in a terrorist attack in Karachi. Although some observers have speculated that the killings may be linked to the November 10 conviction of Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi (or Kasi) for the murder of two CIA employees in 1993, the team of FBI agents assisting Pakistan officials in the investigation was directed to explore all possibilities.

Pakistan and India continue to accuse each other of supporting cross-border terrorist activities. According to the 1997 State Department report, Pakistan accused India of sponsoring a series of bombings in Pakistan's Punjab Province in 1995-96 in which 18 persons were killed. India continues to allege official Pakistan support for militants fighting in Kashmir, while Pakistan maintains that it provides only political and moral support. A reportedly Pakistan-based group claimed responsibility for three bombings in the New Delhi area in 1996 that killed 40 people. There have been allegations that four Western tourists, including American Donald Hutchings, kidnaped in 1995, may have been killed by militants associated with a Pakistan-based group, Harakat ul-Ansar. In October 1997, the U.S. State Department placed the Harakat ul-Ansar on a list of foreign terrorist organizations. Many of the charges against Pakistan appear to stem from the presence of several thousand Islamic fundamentalists from various countries who went to Pakistan to participate in the Afghanistan war and who remained in the Peshawar area. Some of these fundamentalist groups allegedly have bee involved in assisting the Kashmir separatist movement with Pakistan government support. In the North-West Frontier Province, many religious schools suspected to be fronts for terrorist training activities, reportedly receive funding from Iran and Saudi Arabia.


S.Res. 227 (Feinstein)

Submitted May 12, expresses the sense of the Senate regarding the May Indian nuclear tests and resolves that the Senate condemn the decision of the Government of India to conduct the tests. It also urges the Government of Pakistan, and all governments, to exercise restraint in response to the Indian nuclear tests, in order to avoid further exacerbating the nuclear arms race in South Asia.

H.Res. 439 (Underwood)

Submitted May 14, concerning India's recent nuclear tests, strongly urges Pakistan to exercise restraint and resist the temptation to prepare for nuclear weapons testing of its own. Both the Senate and the House resolutions support the economic sanctions imposed on India by the President under the authority of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994.


05/28/98 --Pakistan carried out five underground nuclear tests.

04/06/95 --Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto began a 10-day official visit to the United States, during which she met with President Clinton, Members of Congress, Congressional committees, and U.S. business leaders.

04/08/94 --U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott visited Islamabad with a proposal seek from Congress a one-time waiver of the Pressler amendment in order to release to Pakistan 28 F-16 fighter planes in return for a verifiable cap on Pakistan's production of fissile material.

07/14/93 --Pakistan was removed from the informal terrorist watch list because the State Department had determined that Pakistan had implemented "a policy of ending official support for terrorists in India."

01/09/93 --The United States warned Pakistan that it was the subject of "active continuing review" for possible inclusion on the State Department list of terrorist states for its alleged support of terrorist activities in the Indian states of Punjab and Kashmir.

10/01/90 --Pakistan became ineligible for new U.S. assistance when President Bush failed to certify under Section 620E(e) (the "Pressler Amendment") that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device.

05/15/88 --Soviet forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan.

10/18/86 --President Reagan signed a foreign aid bill that included a 6-year, $4 billion package of economic and military aid for Pakistan.

08/08/85 --The "Pressler Amendment" (Section 620E(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act) was signed into law, requiring the President to certify to Congress that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device during the fiscal year for which U.S. aid is to be provided.

09/05/81 --The United States and Pakistan announced agreement on a six-year, $3.2 billion package of economic and military aid.

12/27/79 --Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan.

04/06/79 --The Carter Administration invoked Section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act to suspend U.S. aid to Pakistan because of its acquisition of unsafeguarded uranium enrichment technology.

03/05/59 --A U.S.-Pakistan bilateral agreement on military cooperation was signed.

09/08/54 --The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was established under a collective defense treaty signed in Manila by the United States, Pakistan, Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines.

05/19/54 --The United States and Pakistan signed a Mutual Assistance Defense Agreement.

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