Tag Archives: US aid

Misdirected aid facilitates anti-Americanism, undermines democracy

In today’s New York Times, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid examines the causes of rising anti-Americanism in Pakistan, and notes that American aid has largely been unproductive in improving relations because it’s been targeted to boosting the military, rather than improving civilian infrastructure and institutions.

And in Pakistan, people see no lasting economic benefit from the $20 billion Washington has spent there since 2001. It has bought a lot of military equipment, but no dam or university or electric power plant…

…American attempts to change this course with either carrots or sticks are rebuffed, while the civilian government cowers in the background, not wanting to get trampled by the two bull elephants of American and Pakistani military will. Meanwhile the voices of extremism translate anti-Americanism into denunciations of Americans’ own treasured ideals: democracy, liberalism, tolerance and women’s rights. These days, all are pronounced Western or American concepts, and dismissed.

The solution, then, is not to break ties or cut aid to Pakistan, but to reorient US aid policy towards strengthening the civilian government so that it is no longer the weaker player in the struggle to define policy and guide public opinion. Investing in the Diamer Bhasha dam project is one example of how US aid could be targeted to specific projects that would improve long term development and, as a result, stability.

The underlying goals for any US aid investment should be to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. As Ahmed Rashid points out, during the 1980s and the early 2000s, American administrations preferred to deal with military dictators who used American short-term security goals as a way to consolidate their own power by playing the US and extremist militants against each other. It’s time to try something different.

In identifying aid recipients, the US should always work directly with the democratically elected civilian government so that it can stand up to the “bull elephant” of the Pakistani military and perform its role as the proper and legitimate authority for determining and implementing official policy. By strengthening democratic civilian institutions, the US will then meet its primary aid goal – improving the lives of all Pakistanis. And with that, public perception will improve naturally.

Partners, Not Patrons

Center for Global Development logoAt Wednesday afternoon’s release event for the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) new report, Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the U.S. Approach to Development in Pakistan, a consistent theme was present in the discussion: Change in Pakistan can only come from within, and if US development assistance is going to be effective, it must support Pakistan’s domestic reformers and invest in building the nation’s domestic capacity.

The reports authors called on Congress to embrace three guiding principles when considering US aid to Pakistan: Humility, patience, and clarity of mission. Current aid policy, the authors found, too often lacks clearly defined or unrealistic goals. As the war in Afghanistan has taken center stage, development in Pakistan became seen as a tool to effect short-term security and diplomacy goals rather than a long-term investment in the economic and political stability of the fledgling democracy.

CGD Project Director Molly Kinder noted that this was a misguided and ultimately self-defeating approach to development in Pakistan. Rather than attempting to use aid as a quid pro quo, she said, US development assistance should be implemented in a way that will “unleash the power of Pakistan’s private sector.” To that end, the authors offer the following five recommends for revising US aid strategy:

1. Let Pakistani products compete in US markets.

2. Actively encourage domestic and foreign private investment.

3. Target aid for long-term impact and beware of unintended consequences.

4. Finance what is already working.

5. Support and engage with Pakistan’s reformers.

Speaking at the event, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, emphasized that the role of aid should be that of a catalyst, sparking innovation and investment in Pakistan’s domestic human and natural resources. The Pakistani Ambassador recounted the story of the Kinnow orange – the most popular citrus fruit in Pakistan – which was brought to Pakistan from California as part of a development program in the 1960s. As the Ambassador explained, the US provided the seeds and the saplings, and Pakistanis grew the trees, tended the groves, and ate the fruit.

H.E. Ambassador Husain HaqqaniFar from a short-term “hearts and minds” project, the Kinnow story represents an alternative way of approaching civilian development that involves American assistance at laying the foundation for domestic production. Similiarly, the Ambassador noted that Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) were both founded with investments from the US. Today, each of these institutions represents the excellence of Pakistani education.

In order to return to this model of development, the Ambassador explained, we need to change the way both countries think of aid. Too often, the US-Pakistan relationship is reduced to cliches designed to serve domestic politics. In the US, aid to Pakistan is often seen as something akin to a purchase, causing Americans to ask why Pakistanis are not delivering. In Pakistan, US aid is often the subject of great resentment, with Pakistanis demanding the government “break the begging bowl” and refuse American assistance.

According to Ambassador Haqqani, US and Pakistani leaders need to change the discussion to one that focuses on the US providing support for reforms defined and implemented from within Pakistan. To be successful, aid must be viewed as neither a bribe nor alms, but as an investment in developing domestic capacity. Like the seed for the Kinnow orange or the founding of LUMS, successful development operates as a catalyst to unlock the latent potential in Pakistanis themselves. What Americans receive in return for their investment is the long-term security and stability of a healthy and prosperous partner.

Writing in USA Today last weekend, Pakistani parliamentarian Farahnaz Ispahani referred to the Marshall Plan after World War II in which the US invested heavily in Europe with the understanding that political stability and economic self-sufficiency were the best bulwark against radicalization.

At the onset of the Cold War, the U.S. understood that political stability in vulnerable countries like France, Italy and Greece was intrinsically linked to the viability of their economies. President Truman advanced the European Recovery Plan (the Marshall Plan) that brilliantly operationalized this thesis, and by doing so saved Western Europe from communism. The same construct should be applied to Pakistan as we jointly work toward the defeat of the terrorist menace and the rebuilding of a peaceful and stable South and Central Asia.

Each of the speakers at Wednesday’s event agreed on a core point – US aid can serve an important role in improving stability and security in Pakistan if implemented correctly. This means abandoning misguided views of aid as a tool of US leverage in Pakistan and working together as partners, not patrons, to help Pakistan achieve success.

Do Not Cut Aid Over Raymond Davis

Questions about the fate of Raymond Davis continue to complicate US-Pakistan relations. Today, President Obama called on Pakistan to release the American pursuant to the Vienna Conventions. The Pakistani government continues to call on the question of Davis’s immunity to be decided by Pakistan’s courts. While Tuesday did see some potential progress on the issue, it remains to be seen how the situation will ultimately play out.

Bradley Klapper’s report for The Sydney Morning Herald makes an important observation:

[Raymond Davis’s] detention has become a point of honour for both nations, and a rallying point for anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

According to Klapper, the US government is considering several options in response to Pakistan’s refusal to return Davis, some of which center on isolating the South Asian nuclear power.

US officials hinted broadly that they may cancel or postpone an invitation to Pakistan’s foreign minister to visit Washington this month.

The Obama administration also is reportedly considering a slowdown in visa processing for Pakistanis seeking to come to the US. That would be hugely unpopular in Pakistan, where grievance already runs high over the perception that the US discriminates or holds back in granting visas to Pakistanis.

The US is also considering suspending or cutting back on military and educational training programs with the Pakistani armed forces and suspending or cutting back on civilian educational, scientific, cultural and local and state government exchanges, one official said.

Cutting aid and attempting to isolate Pakistan would not only be a huge mistake, it would result in a policy failure of immense proportions due to two important realities: Pakistan’s geography and demographics.

Pakistan is on the verge of a demographic explosion.

If current demographic trends continue the country’s population is projected to reach 238 million in 2030 and 335 million in 2050. Of the current population of 172 million, 66 per cent is below 30 years. 39 million are between the ages of 15-24.

Simply put, a nation of 300 million people cannot be contained. Past attempts to influence Pakistan by cutting aid reinforced the narratives of Islamist militants and resulted in nuclear proliferation. The US is going to have to engage Pakistan, and engage them as peers, not as patrons.

Pakistan is also bordered by two nations that would be more than happy to step in and fill any space left by an American withdrawal of engagement: Iran and China. As China passes Japan as the second largest economy in the world, it is also moving to expand its influence in Asia. At the end of 2010, China signed $30 billion in trade deals with Pakistan, and announced plans to build a fifth nuclear reactor in the country.

While less able to provide Pakistan with economic and military assistance than China, Iran poses potential difficulties of its own. Its own isolation at the hands of US policy would create an opportunity for the two nations to overcome sectarian differences to help each other through the construction and control of regional energy infrastructure as well providing leverage for Iran to influence Pakistan to trade in nuclear technology as a means of securing much-needed state revenue.

Thankfully, calls for cutting aid to Pakistan appear to be going unrecognized by the White House. President Barack Obama this week proposed over $3 Billion for Pakistan in the 2012 budget. This investment includes $1.5 billion in funds allocated under Kerry-Lugar-Berman, $350 million in military financing, and $1.1 billion in counterinsurgency funding. It is imperative to building trust between the US and Pakistan that the US to make good on its promises to provide economic, civilian, and military assistance. This funding should not be made conditional on the release of Raymond Davis.

Diplomatic problems require diplomatic solutions – not diplomatic freezes. Sen. John Kerry’s apology to the people of Pakistan was an important first step in overcoming confusion about Raymond Davis’s diplomatic status and American respect for Pakistani lives. Making good on obligations to invest in Pakistan’s national security and economic growth are another important part of the solution.

Assassination of Governor Taseer Reiterates Importance of Supporting Democracy & Justice in Pakistan

Democracy is the best revenge

The assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer and the divided reaction among the Pakistani public reiterates the importance of American support for democracy and justice in Pakistan. As a nation that itself navigated dark days when forces of intolerance and extremism threatened violence across the land, the United States has a duty to stand by our friends as they struggle to secure their own future.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at Gettysburg in which he observed that the American civil war was testing whether any nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” could long endure. In his resolve, he gave expression to the soul of the American nation:

That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The United States was 85 years old.

While Pakistan has not neared the threshold of civil war, this young nation founded on the principles of freedom and democracy faces a struggle similar to that which the United States wrestled as President Lincoln spoke those famous words.

The popular Pakistani blog, New Pakistan tweeted yesterday the following:

Let there be no doubt we have a national crisis in Pakistan. We are fighting for the soul of country.

In 1947, the year Pakistan was founded, the father of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah said the following before the Constituent Assembly:

We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.

Six-months later he clarified this principle saying, “Make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it.”

Sixty-four years later, Pakistan is torn between a peace-loving, democratically-inclined majority fighting to keep alive the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and a fanatic, violent minority who seek a theocratic state under a twisted interpretation of religion.

In the past, the US has, against its principles, supported military strongmen in Pakistan in the hope of stabilizing the country long enough for democracy to take root. Far from seeding democracy, however, these dictators sowed the seeds of religious extremism, poisoning the soil with hatred, intolerance, and mistrust.

While Pakistan’s militant groups do not have the strength or support to topple the civilian government, they are entrenched enough to disrupt the democratic process. They have assassinated two pro-democracy leaders in the past three years: Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and Salmaan Taseer in 2011.

Even more troubling is how the jihadi mindset that was nurtured by dictators with American acquiescence has spread. Considered unimportant until 9/11, this extremist ideology was left to work its way into educational curricula, into courtrooms, and into the rank and file of Pakistan’s security forces. Today it threatens to stunt the growth of democracy among a war-weary populace.

As Americans, we should be able to empathize. It was not so long ago that our own society was threatened by a poisonous ideology. Racist violence was perpetrated against individuals and the state by armed militias, schools taught pseudo-science based on an extremist ideology, and intolerance and hatred were institutionalized in courts.

But just as Americans came together to defeat the Ku Klux Klan, school segregation, and Jim Crow, Pakistan can and will see its way through the rocky waters they face today. Violence and intolerance is not inherent to Islam or to Pakistan, as is attested by the millions of peace-loving, tolerant Muslims and Pakistanis the world over. In fact, the natural affinity between Islam and democracy was made clear by Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in her final book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.

As Americans, we have stared into the abyss, and we have seen what can become of a people who forsake justice. Ultimately, we chose the path of liberty. But this choice came not cheap, and the price was paid in the blood of hundreds of thousands of men and women.

Today, Pakistan finds itself staring into the abyss. The United States must stand by Pakistan in its time of trouble, providing guidance and support as it finds its own way to the path of liberty. We must not give in to the temptation of easy, short-term solutions. We have tried these before and they will fail us now as they have failed us before. We must stand firm in our principles and in our faith in democracy so that we may help the people of Pakistan ensure that their own government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Finding Hope In A Tragedy

It’s hard to find hope in a tragedy as immense as the floods that are ravaging Pakistan, but Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, thinks there might be a glimmer of hope shining through.

The rains that have for the past two weeks caused the worst flooding in northwest Pakistan in eight decades have shifted attention from the country’s battle against insurgency and militancy and the fragility of its relationship with the United States. As the monsoon rains move south, numerous roads, bridges and dams have been damaged. Crops have been destroyed. It is likely that next year’s crops will not be planted. Yet amid all this destruction are reasons for optimism.

Rapid U.S. action to support Pakistan’s relief efforts may help improve America’s image among a population that generally resents the United States. Washington’s $55 million aid pledge makes it the largest donor among the international community. U.S. Chinooks — seen as angels of mercy after the 2005 earthquake — are helping Pakistanis over flood-ravaged mountains and plains, and represent both U.S. ability to help Pakistanis and the Pakistani military’s willingness to work with its U.S. counterparts. This collaboration will go a long way toward building relationships among rank-and-file service members. The head of Pakistan’s air force is visiting the United States this week to see joint air exercises in Nevada. Such encounters will educate people and help both countries dispel false notions about each other.

Though the past few years have seen mutual trust on the rise between the US and Pakistan, there are still weak spots that opponents of a strong US-Pakistan partnership exploit. The floods provide an opportunity for the US to demonstrate with actions – not just words – that it is dedicated to a long and mutually-respectful relationship with Pakistan. As Mr Nawaz writes,

To reconstruct damaged homes and infrastructure and help its people recover, Pakistan will require enormous aid — not just from the United States and Europe but also from Muslim nations and its neighbors. Meanwhile, the battle against the homegrown insurgency and militancy that threaten Pakistan’s polity rages on. Even as Washington focuses on leaving Afghanistan, it must not lose sight of Pakistan’s long-term civil and military needs — not just for short-term gain but in an effort to build a lasting relationship. To help change the long-entrenched story, Washington and Islamabad need to display consistent behavior. Trust must be built on mutual understanding and equally beneficial actions.

As I write this, the US and Pakistan are working together to bring much needed relief to Pakistanis affected by the floods. As the video below clearly shows, when our two great nations work together, we can accomplish great things.

Benefits of a Civilian Nuclear Power Deal

Civilian nuclear energy

One of the more interesting recommendations of the recent RAND report, Counterinsurgency in Pakistan, is the development of a civilian nuclear power program for Pakistan. Pursuing a civilian nuclear power program for Pakistan makes sense, and could provide significant improvement in regional security, civilian infrastructure and perceptions of American intent.

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The Road to Peace

NPR’s Steve Inskeep has been reporting from the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient road that traverses South Asia. On Friday, he checked in from Islamabad and what he reported about Pakistanis conversations about Faisal Shahzad sheds important light on the road to peace in Pakistan.

What Inskeep heard actually surprised him – how little most Pakistanis were talking about Faisal Shahzad. This is not to say that Pakistanis are not concerned with terrorism – far from it. Since the Times Square incident, editorial boards and columnists in Pakistan’s media have written extensively about the urgent need to eradicate the terror networks in their country.

But religious extremism is not Pakistan’s only problem. Young and middle class Pakistanis – the very people who are must be engaged to effect sustainable change in the country – are beset by a host of problems other than terrorism.
Economic inflation, a lack of foreign investment to provide expanded employment opportunities, and scheduled blackouts due to a lack of energy capacity all provide daily interruptions to young people’s lives.

Still, each of these issues can be traced back to terrorism. Pakistan is besieged by almost daily attacks from groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the group that is suspected of having provided support to Faisal Shahzad. Over the past two years, more than 3,000 Pakistanis have been murdered by these groups.

Pakistan’s government and military have greatly increased their efforts to fight these terrorists, gaining high praise from US Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

McChrystal said fighting terrorism within its own borders was important for Pakistan and the US, and important for partnership between the two states. General David Petraeus, Commander of US Central Command, also said the Pakistani military had gone after the Taliban effectively last year in its northwest territories. “It’s important to give Pakistan credit for what it has done,” he said in his key note address to the 2010 Joint War fighting Conference in Virginia.

But these efforts have left Pakistan’s government with limited resources to address issues not directly related to security. Recognizing this, the US government tripled non-military aid to Pakistan.

“The United States is firmly committed to the future that the Pakistani people deserve — a future that will advance our common security and prosperity,” Obama said. “Just as we will help Pakistan strengthen the capacity that it needs to root out violent extremists, we are also committed to working … to help Pakistan improve the basic services that its people depend upon — schools, roads and hospitals.”

Talking to people in Islamabad, NPR’s Steve Inskeep found that people often wanted him to send a message back to the US – that Pakistanis are by far good, peace loving people who only are struggling against difficult odds.

The road to peace is before us. By supporting the people of Pakistan and their struggle for democracy and justice, we help clear the obstacles on that road that provide cover for militant extremists. When we clear the path towards democracy by providing essential non-military support, we empower the people of Pakistan to better their situation, and we in turn secure our own.