Dear Senators Kerry, Lugar and Berman

Published: June 22, 2010
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I read your letter to Ambassador Holbrooke and your concerns are justified. This is, after all, money paid by US taxpayers who are just coming out of a recession. Approximately $7.5 billion in non-military assistance over a period of five years is a lot of money to spend and then ensure transparency in spending practises.

I will get into a lot of trouble at home by saying this but please keep your money and instead help up build our capacity. If you stop bailing out the Pakistan government every time they come to you with a begging bowl maybe, just maybe, they will come up with an economic plan themselves that would increase productivity and create jobs. It’s their country, they know the situation and they have some excellent brains to help them at their disposable, not to mention a world-class business school.

If you stopped increasing the capacity to generate power, maybe the government would consider the abundant amount of sunshine that nature blesses us with, just like the wind along our coastline can be a source of power. If you showed them how to balance budgets without allocating everything to the military, maybe they would have fewer cars in their convoys, live in a small section of their fifty-room mansions, switch off the lights, eat daal-chapati and serve just one cup of tea a day, without biscuits, to their guests.

If you showed the 342 members of parliament, 100 senators and thousands of bureaucrats that emails are much more efficient than faxes, and take up much less time, they could read their messages online instead of using their personal assistants who print out all documents, have their bosses read them and make changes, then retype them and print them out again. Show them how to reach behind their desks or walk to the next room to tear off an urgent fax themselves. Teach them the meaning of the word efficiency and economising. Explain to them that real political power comes when an educated electorate votes them in and that liars and people with fake degrees should not be rewarded by leading a nation. Show them how important it is for the military to be under civilian control and that the Supreme Court is the custodian of the law and requires their immediate financial attention. Demonstrate to them how to have a police force and rangers that command respect so that citizens can go to them for help instead of fearing their brutality.

Tell them that public servants serve the public and are answerable to the people who voted them in. If you want to help, write off 75 per cent of our loans and our debt servicing, wipe the slate clean. After all, as a salaried person I have to live on X rupees a month which I use to pay my bills and support my family. I cannot live beyond my means and when times are tough I economise. Pakistan has to do the same. Otherwise we’re perpetuating a cycle of debt and dependence.

If my fellow countrymen saw their government tightening its belt and making fundamental changes in their attitudes and approach to poverty reduction, I’m sure they wouldn’t be so angry with them and might believe them when they try to tell us that the US is our ally. So please Senator Kerry, Senator Lugar and Senator Berman, help us help ourselves.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 22, 2010 - 3:47PM

    This is well said, Ms Rahman.

    I think it is economists who coined the term ‘moral hazard’. If you know you will be bailed out each time, either by donors or the multilateral institutions including exceptional balance of payments support from the IMF, you will tend to be reckless and profilgate.

    Many years ago, someone looked at the correlation between domestic savings and aid. It turned out to be strongly negative. While there was much fuss about whether the correlation had been correctly specified, mere intuition tells us that aid is likely to set up perverse incentives by alleviating the pressure to undertake domestic reforms. I believe this point was also made in the Senators recent letter.Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 4:15PM

    Dear Senators, Kerry, Lugar and Berman,

    Triple our aid package, deposit a sizable chunk in our Swiss bank accounts, give us green cards and we’ll give you Pakistan. Our nuclear launch codes, Mineral deposits, Lassi’s and even our souls.

    We look forward to announcing you as the Pakistani Tri-Partite to the General populace. Imagine how wonderful it would be never to lose an election again!

    Respectfully Yours (For a Price, See above terms)

    Pakistani Parliament

    PS: Please ignore this crazy women. She is lying, we deny having the ability to read which makes being paperless quite efficient.

    PSS: Don’t get the military mad…seriously. Recommend

  • Kerry, Lugar and Bergman
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:22PM

    Dear Anjum,

    Thank you for your letter. It is very kind of you to believe, perhaps even more than us, that all these lessons are ours to teach. After all, many deign to question us on the basis that the U.S. is the most indebted country in the world and consumes the majority of the world’s resources. So we thank you for recognizing the expertise we hold on the subject of thrift, even as we thank that Almighty for the world’s insatiable demand for petro-dollars that enables us to finance our deficit spending.

    No matter. Your argument has merit. Mexico is a great example of a country that rose up stronger and wiser after its sovereign debt default. But unfortunately, we must decline your entreaties. Pakistan has put us in a difficult position. It negotiates by holding a gun to its head, by saying that if it collapses it will spew its jihadis and nukes across the world. We have reason to fear; the Pakistani military has peddled nuclear technology and reaped billions even when times were good. We shudder at what it might do when faced with the prospect of economic collapse. Of course, our benign neglect enabled Pakistan to obtain nuclear weapons in the first place. Some might think this ill advised in retrospect. But the question of maintaining a balance of power in strategic locations around the globe – with South Asia as an important node – certainly weighs heavily on us. We couldn’t let India simply assert its hegemony across the region, particularly not in its pro-Soviet days. Peace would bring prosperity, prosperity power, and power a challenge to American mastery in the Indian Ocean. You will of course, understand our desire to impose such a strategic balance. After all, it is a lesson we imbibed as well as you from the British Empire.

    We wish we could explain all this to the great people of Pakistan. But we have reason to believe that they would not understand our nuanced reasons for requiring Pakistan’s official military spending to outweigh and outpace spending on health and education combined. Pakistanis have certainly, no doubt through being ill-informed, griped about the severity of austerity measures we imposed through “structural adjustments”. Unlike you, they do not recognize the value of tightening one’s belt. And it must be said, we do require Pakistan to invest heavily in the armed forces to supply military muscle when we require it, and the political muscle to ensure that the inadvertent misunderstandings of the great Pakistani people don’t come in the way of our interests in the region. By doing so we know you will understand that we are strengthening the Pakistani nation, for we have nothing but your best interests at heart. Our friendship with the people of Pakistan is an enduring one, especially when those people wear the uniform of the Pakistan Army.

    Please write again. It warms our heart to hear that our policies are successful, as evidenced by how highly regarded we are.


    Senators Kerry, Lugar & BermanRecommend

  • Mehreen Shah
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:14PM

    Very well-written Anjum.

    Giving a child money once will make him happy, maybe for a day, a month but then it holds no value after that. Teaching a child how to read, may take longer in terms of time, may take up much more energy and effort but at the end of the day, the child will grow up to be a self-sufficient, independent individual. It’s better to help someone help themselves rather than doing them a favour. But before anyone else does, we need to realize the importance and take a stand.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 23, 2010 - 3:05AM

    All very brave wonderful cynical and witty prose.

    I wonder how many of you has a tax return. If you do I wonder how much you under-file and short-file.

    PS Are you suggesting Pakistan should opt for a soverign debt-default and ‘rise up stronger like Mexico’? Do you have even the faintest idea what a soverign debt-default entails just in economic terms?Recommend

  • Sidra
    Jun 24, 2010 - 5:48PM

    @Murtaza Ali Jafri

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