This autumn marks one year since I arrived in Pakistan. These 12 months have shown me the tremendous potential of this country and its citizens. Pakistan, like my own country, is a nation born from a vision. As Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah said during his inaugural radio address, this vision imagined a vibrant nation ready to make its “full contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world”. In 1947, my country’s leadership saw the same potential in Pakistan as I see today. The path to peace and prosperity has not been easy or linear; nevertheless, a great deal of progress has been made. In order to fully realise the goals outlined by Pakistan’s first leader, we must not look towards the future alone. We should also look to the past to learn from our actions, build on our successes and overcome our setbacks. Seven years ago this month, the historic Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act was signed into law by President Obama. Under this law, dubbed the KLB Act, after its authors Senators Kerry and Lugar and Representative Berman, the US government invested almost $6 billion in Pakistan from 2010 to 2014. It is now two years since the expiration of KLB, which officially ended on September 30, 2014. We need to reflect on the accomplishments, challenges and the overall benefits to Pakistan achieved during this time. It is time to look back on our past to learn from our actions and build on our successes.
It is important to first point out that KLB was neither the beginning nor is it the end of US government development assistance to Pakistan. The US and Pakistan have been working together for more than 60 years. To be sure, it has been a rocky road and there have been many peaks and valleys in the amount of foreign assistance as political possibilities and constraints have shifted within each of our countries over the years. As with earlier peaks, KLB marked an important moment for our two countries. In 2009, the US government believed Pakistan faced domestic challenges that, if left unaddressed, would compromise the future of a generation of Pakistanis and pose serious threats to the stability of its neighbours. We also believed we could help the government and people of Pakistan interrupt and overcome those challenges. Despite tremendous obstacles, some of which could not have been foreseen, evidence of our shared achievements can be seen in communities throughout Pakistan.
We see this evidence growing in the fields of farmer Naheed Fatima. In 2009, her small plot of land was not enough to support a family of three. She was surviving by doing small jobs, grinding flour and stitching clothes, earning Rs100-150 from each piece. After years of struggle, her life changed when she started planting a new variety of seeds provided by USAID’s Agricultural Innovation Program. Today, she grows twice the yield of wheat on her same plot of land, with stronger, healthier plants. Across Pakistan, nearly 102,000 farmers have stories like Naheed’s. These farmers helped increase the value of Pakistan’s exports of targeted commodities by more than $44 million. Engineering graduate students Warda Mushtaq and Syeda Mehwish are also reminders of what KLB made possible. The two young women are members of a growing cadre of Pakistani academics who are tackling some of their country’s most pressing challenges. Along with 23 other students, they spent a semester learning new research techniques and confronting energy-related projects at Arizona State University as part of the US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies project. Both Warda and Syeda have returned home with newly acquired knowledge about solar energy, which helps shape their work addressing Pakistan’s persistent energy shortfalls. More than 13,000 students like Warda and Syeda attended institutions of higher education with scholarships provided by USAID. These investments will pay dividends in the future, but KLB also responded to the pressing energy needs of the day. By 2014, the US had helped add 1,500MW to Pakistan’s national power grid – enough to supply electricity to 16 million Pakistanis.
Trucks loaded with Pakistan’s agricultural products drive on the more than 900km of roads we have helped build and repair using KLB funds. These roads are in areas particularly vulnerable to violent extremism, including the four main trade routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The roads have given rise to new businesses throughout the region and connected some of the most isolated communities to new markets and services. Many of Pakistan’s children who are heading back to school this fall will be sitting at desks made possible by the partnership between our two countries. In communities nationwide, USAID has helped Pakistan build or repair almost 1,000 schools, many of these in response to the 2010 flooding. During the KLB era, the Pakistan and the US learnt many lessons on how to manage development programmes in the new millennium. The US dramatically increased its staff to manage continued support to Pakistan. The US Mission has undertaken a thorough review of our assistance programme and we have gone far in terms of improving performance, designing new programmes, and working with the Pakistan government. And this partnership has continued to demonstrate important results post-KLB. Over the past two years, we have added an additional 900MW to the grid. We have built or refurbished 49 more schools and assisted more than 400,000 students to learn to read. Some 2,300 Pakistani students have received scholarships over the past two years for higher education and we have helped more than three million additional women and children receive health services. These successes build upon the achievements made possible by KLB.
Programmes funded under KLB continue even now and will for years to come, and USAID’s funding for Pakistan still remains strong. Even as funding availability fluctuates, the impact of development assistance remains steady. Projects USAID has initiated over the years have been gradually taken over by Pakistanis, whose leadership ensures long-lasting change and moves Pakistan closer to achieving its vision of peace and prosperity.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2016.