Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had to undergo a routine security check at a US airport during a recent visit, an ‘indignity’ that has enraged the Pakistani media amid reports that the Trump administration is considering imposing visa bans and other sanctions on individuals in the Pakistani government.
Washington also announced sanctions on Monday on seven Pakistani companies over suspicion they have links to the nuclear trade, signaling a further downturn in ties.
Media in Pakistan
Footage aired on Pakistani TV channels over the past two days shows Pakistan PM picking up his bag and coat and walking out from a security check at what they said was an American airport. Pakistan PM was in the US last week on a private trip to visit his ailing sister but he also met vice-president Mike Pence in an unscheduled engagement at which he was bluntly told Pakistani has to do more to address concerns about its nurturing of terrorist groups.
Pakistan had been humiliated
But it was the sight of the Pakistan PM being subjected to a security check that drove Pakistani TV anchors apoplectic. “He should be ashamed for saying he went on a private visit. He is the Pakistan PM… he has a diplomatic passport …there is no such thing as a private visit. He is representing the country… there are certain protocols when you are representing 22 crore people,” roared one talking head, saying Pakistan had been humiliated and Pakistan PM had brought shame on the country.
Afghan militants waging war
The US Smackdown came even as Foreign Policy magazine reported that the Trump administration is ‘weighing unprecedented political penalties’ on Islamabad for harboring Afghan militants waging war on the US-backed government in Afghanistan.
“The options under consideration include revoking Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, permanently cutting off the US military aid that was suspended two months ago, and even imposing visa bans or other sanctions on individuals in the Pakistani government deemed responsible for providing support to the militants,” the journal said.
Pakistan Report Card
The magazine reported that the Trump White House is now engaged in an internal debate about the tempo and scale of possible punitive steps against Pakistan, echoing arguments under previous US presidents. Some officials and military officers favor a hard line with Pakistan PM and his govt, maintaining that years of aid and accommodation have produced little in return. But other voices in the administration worry about alienating a nuclear-armed country of 200 million people bordering China.
The appointment last week of a fervent hawk as national security adviser, John Bolton, and the nomination of another for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, it said ‘could tilt the discussion in favor of tougher measures against Islamabad.’
Not a first time?
However, past records and Bolton’s own writing on the subject suggests he believes in the “nuclear Pakistan is too big and too dangerous to be allowed to fail” school, and he would rather keep buying Islamabad’s compliance with a steady dribble of aid. Pushing it too hard could well lead to it becoming “Iran or North Korea on steroids,” Bolton told Brietbart.com in August 2017.