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.