Quraishi, president of the lobbying group PakNationalists Forum,said that the United States’ threat of sanctions is just for publicshow. In terms of bilateral relations, Washington will try toaccommodate some of Pakistan’s reasons for proceeding with theproject.RT: Washington was quick to threaten the sanctionsbefore the ink on the project was dry – why is Pakistan stillpushing ahead with it?Ahmed Quraishi: Obviously the United States does not havemany options when it comes to Pakistan. They need Pakistan for thewithdrawal of American troops and other NATO troops fromAfghanistan, and Pakistan is the only way out. As long as they needthis route, it is not expected that Washington would really forgeahead with the position of sanctions on Pakistan. But still, itwould make sense for them to make these statements right now inorder to maintain and sustain pressure on the Iranian government,and of course for the overall purpose of meeting their policy lineswith regards to Iran.So it just seems to me and seems to really many people here inPakistan that the Pakistani government did not go ahead with thisproject without taking everything into consideration. One of thekey points that I am sure Pakistani decision-makers took intoaccount is the fact that the United States may have to resort togiving some sort of indirect exemptions to the Pakistanigovernment, exemptions from the law that imposes sanctions on thecountries dealing with Iran, and of course the US has done this inthe case of several companies belonging to countries that areallied with the government of the US. So there is a possibilitythat the US government, while publicly maintaining pressure, willprivately choose a course where it might try to accommodate some ofthe Pakistani reasons behind going ahead of this project.RT: Are there purely commercial reasons behind theproject? The Iranian leader calls it a ‘show of resistance againstdomination.’ Are there similar feeling in Pakistan?AQ: There is no question that the Pakistani government isalso sending an indirect signal here that ‘We have reached a pointin time since the alliance between the two countries after 9/11.’We have reached a point in time where the Pakistani interests arereally diverging from those of the United States, and they do notmeet or see eye to eye on everything, and certainly they do not seeeye to eye on Iran and this project in particular. The UnitedStates has given to Pakistan a lot of lip service to Pakistan’senergy requirements.The US government tried to engage Pakistan, to meet Pakistanienergy requirements, but it failed to, for example, meet the keyPakistani demand to spend approximately US $1 billion on a megaenergy project in Pakistan that would have solved the energy crisisin the country. The United States, unfortunately, despite passingseveral pieces of legislation to provide aid to Pakistan, includingthe very famous Kerry Lugar Aid Bill, failed to commit that kind ofmoney that Pakistan’s energy needs. I think the Pakistanidecision-makers have reached the conclusion that can’t wait longer,and that they have to take decisions that would meet the Pakistaniinterests. And certainly this decision on Iran’s pipeline isabsolutely critical to Pakistan’s security needs and energyneeds.RT: Relations between Islamabad and Washington are notat their warmest, and anti-American sentiment is quite high. Howmight sanctions impact relations between the two nations?AQ: Both countries will be able to sort of maintain anacceptable level of engagement with each other, and it is notexpected that this project would lead to a major rapture betweenthe countries, and both Islamabad and Washington have facedcritical moments over the past five years in their relationship.And they’d managed sort of get over those points of crisis. It justseems to me that this is just one more point of the crisis in thebilateral relations that both governments will manage toovercome. Although I can see how this Pakistani decision actually wouldsort of create a huge dent in the American policy of containingIran. It would do so, it would create a lot of anger in Washington,DC, but as I said it does not seem that American decision-makershave many options really to pursue when it comes to Pakistan atthis point of time, when they need Islamabad for the US hardwareand troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
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