Pakistan, whose recent parliamentary elections were characterized by a French observer team as "sophisticated fraud," is now holding up the United States for money.

Caretaker Interior Minister Mian Zahid Safraz told a news conference that Pakistan may stop interest payments on its foreign debt unless Washington restores military and economic aid.The United States suspended that aid on Oct. 1 because President Bush was unable to certify to Congress that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons. Pakistan has long been suspected of attempting to acquire nuclear weapons to maintain a balance of power with India, its neighbor and foe in three wars. India exploded a nuclear device in 1974.

Ironically, 90 percent of the U.S. aid to Pakistan is consumed by interest payments on its $15 billion foreign debt. Pakistan is the third largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Israel and Egypt.

Yet Pakistan's strategic value to the United States has diminished sharply following last year's Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

These realities, plus the fact that Pakistan's recent elections were marked by numerous reports of fraud and irregularities, suggests that now is an excellent time to reconsider the decision to grant Pakistan aid of any kind. It appears that such aid has outlived whatever usefulness it once had.

The Pakistani leader said that Pakistan is "an independent country" and "cannot be treated as a U.S. colony." That being the case, how can Pakistan expect, nay, demand, that massive aid keep flowing?

There is a certain lack of logic in asserting one's independence on one hand and asking to be supported on the other.

Economic and especially military aid to Pakistan should be very far down any U.S. priority list.