WASHINGTON -- Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, starting a visit to Washington that is crucial to her struggling regime, is accusing the U.S. government of turning its back on its Cold War friends now that the threat of communism seems over.
Ms. Bhutto complained yesterday that after years of supporting American aims, her government had been subjected to tough sanctions after the U.S. government concluded that Pakistan was trying to develop nuclear weapons.
"Those who stood with the United States during its moment of maximum danger, its half-century fight to contain communism, should not be cast aside because the U.S. perceives that the danger has passed," she said in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in Washington. "Threats to freedom and stability are not gone," she said. Ms. Bhutto, who meets with President Clinton today at the White House, wants the United States to lift sanctions that prohibit the sale of arms to her government -- or, at the very least, to return the $1.2 billion that Pakistan has paid for F-16 jet fighters and other military hardware it has not received.
The equipment was bought shortly before the U.S. embargo was imposed in October 1990. According to U.S. officials, Ms. Bhutto was warned in the spring of 1990 that if Pakistan kept developing nuclear weapons it could forfeit both its hardware and money but that her government went ahead on the assumption -- which proved to be wrong -- that the United States would waive the sanctions because of the two nations' previous close relationship.
In her speech yesterday, Ms. Bhutto complained that the restrictions put Pakistan at a strategic disadvantage to its traditional enemy, India, which has never purchased quantities of American arms and therefore is not subject to U.S. sanctions. The sanctions on her country, she charged, could embolden India, which conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1974, to develop its own nuclear arsenal, in effect thwarting Washington's objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
Ms. Bhutto hopes to persuade her American hosts that Pakistan is a stable and democratic regime, potentially a positive model for the world's Muslims.