Can aid salvage US-Pak relations?

Published: January 21, 2012
The writer is a development consultant and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne

The writer is a development consultant and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne

Its internal implications, apart from the memogate scandal has led to the appointment of a new Pakistani ambassador to the US, who has just taken charge of her responsibilities in Washington, at a time when relations between the two countries are severely strained. Last year was a particularly difficult one for Pakistan-US relations. There was continuing US pressure on Pakistan to do more to prevent cross-border terrorism, alongside a growing suspicion of alleged Pakistani complicity with militant groups to maintain strategic leverage vis-a-vis Afghanistan. Collateral damage caused by US drone strikes has not done much to lessen US resentment within a country whose citizens feel that they have had to face the brunt of violence and economic uncertainty in the ‘war against terror’.

In view of worsening bilateral relations, US aid flows to the military remain suspended, including $2 billion in payments under the Coalition Support Fund. The disbursement of non-military aid, including the $7.5 billion pledged under the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) has also been very slow. A US Congressional panel had reported reaching an agreement in December on freezing $700 million in aid to Islamabad, unless Pakistan stops the movement of fertilisers that militants in Afghanistan use in Improvised Explosive Devices to target American troops.

Appointment of our new ambassador to the US will provide impetus to bringing US-Pakistan relations back on track. In this regard, it would be vital to focus on not only resumption but also increased effectiveness of the US civilian assistance programme for Pakistan.

Recognising that the KLB is in grave danger, the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC has released a report this past month titled, “Aiding without abetting: Making US civilian assistance to Pakistan work for both sides”. This report warns that substantial midcourse changes are needed if the KLB is to fulfil the hopes associated with it.

Besides identifying strategic areas for aid investment, the report calls for policymakers on both sides to establish more realistic timelines for stepping up the percentages of US aid to be dispensed through the Pakistani government structures to prevent underutilisation or unavailability of committed funds. While proposing continued budgetary support for the Benazir Income Support Programme, it is suggested that the initiative be tightened to exclude political manipulation and also aim to move beneficiaries toward eventual independence, which is also a sensible suggestion.

However, insufficient attention is drawn to the underlying causes of poverty in the country, such as unequal land access in rural areas which remains a major reason for not only poverty but also social unrest. Although aiming to address such structural causes of deprivation may lead to resistance by vested interest groups, continuing to ignore such ground realities risks continued elite capture of incoming aid and its resulting impotency to make Pakistan a more equitable country.

Both, Pakistan and the US, must work harder to ensure that civilian aid actually reaches those it is intended for, instead of it being held captive to political agendas, or else being misappropriated. In this regard, formulation of more bottom-up instead of top-down aid policies and their genuine implementation would go a long way in allaying US concerns regarding its increasing unpopularity, while helping the Pakistani government curb the scrounge of militancy and deprivation, which has been growing domestically over this past decade as an inevitable outfall of the ‘war against terror’.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • John B
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:45AM

    Did the past Aid to PAK enhanced US-PAK relations? Currently, anti-US is a vote winning strategy for every political party and anti-US is considered as patriotism by the populace.

    Will aid help? Certainly, in salvaging pak from economic chaos. But no amount of aid will bring about change in anti-US propaganda even though the irrigation canals, roads, and national infrastructure were built and are being built on US-Aid.


  • venky
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:47AM

    I am of the opinion that no amount of US Aid to even civilians will do any help in US-Pak relations. Pakistan wants to normalize relations with US only after Afghanistan withdrawal.Pakistan has pinned its strategy with Afghanistan and not US. In such circumstances, it is very difficult for both countries to work together.


  • Singh
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:56AM

    When 64 year old beggar will retire? Please elaborate in your next column.


  • Jan 22, 2012 - 9:34AM

    Since, 9/11 US has given a lot of aid, has that worked? No. Why? Because the amount of hate for the other, in this case the US, will make sure that Aid giving be pointless.

    Pakistan should be treated differently. Isolation is the best possible solution. Tomorrow, when again, Pakistan runs out of money to buy Oil, when it approaches the World Bank or IMF or ADB, it should and, turns out, will be denied Loans and rightfully so.

    This should burst the bubble Pakistanis are in. They might claim they are better off without aid, but they will not be able to handle the isolation that comes with it.

    How to treat a nasty irritant? Silent treatment.


  • Javed
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:47PM

    It is totally useless to think that civilian aid will improve US image in Pakistan. If the US gives a $100,000 to each Pakistani, its image will remain the same. Of course we will gladly take the money but maintain our hatred.


  • AshvinnAshvinn
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:10PM

    Pakistanis are used to easy money they will understand other countries generosity only when they understand the value money, which they will realise once they build their own industries and systems. Outsides powers helping Pakistan to forward their own interests


  • Indian muslim
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:35PM

    I see no hope for pakistani chaotic state. Now again people like Imran Khan are promising panacea for pakistan socio-economic problem. IK has openely opposed war on terror and has promised to stop it. But unfortunately he has got little idea about economic situation of the country.

    Let’s see how the things turns out in the future but one thing is certain that present generation of pakistan has already been socialized against liberal/secular views and in my mind this is the real issue.


  • Cosmo
    Jan 22, 2012 - 6:46PM

    Spoken like a true pakistani.


  • Cautious
    Jan 22, 2012 - 9:26PM

    When the USA provide civilian aid with no strings – the corrupt govt/military either steal it or use it for other purposes. When the USA provides strings to insure the aid goes for it’s intended purpose the govt/military officials rile the people up complaining that the USA is meddling in internal affairs and violating it’s sovereignty – and the people end up hating you. America should exercise patience – wait until Pakistan gets new civilian/military leadership and wait until they ask for help. Once they ask for you help make sure that they publicly agree to whatever restrictions are placed on that aid – if they balk at making their position public then don’t provide the aid.


  • let there be peace
    Jan 22, 2012 - 11:51PM

    If aid is stopped,
    there may be some economic problems for Pakistan, but I don’t think they will starve or something. Pakistan has world’s most fertile land, many rivers and lot of food. Also ports and fairly good industrial base.
    It may result in cycle of unemployment, social unrest, violence, dictatorships etc etc, but that is normal way of life in Islamic countries, nothing unusual.

    At last there will be strict Sharia.

    Ultimately Pakistan will be like Taliban era Afghanistan-but with enough food.
    But then, even with aid and all, end result will be probably the same!Recommend

  • let there be peace
    Jan 22, 2012 - 11:59PM

    ah and I forgot, topic is US-Pakistan relation. Well, they will continue hating US, India and Ahmedis and Jews and everyone else, including themselves, like always, till Qayamat. And then they will be all in Jannat. And I will be in Jahannam roasting Recommend

  • Harry Stone
    Feb 14, 2012 - 5:49AM

    US aide to PAK is a waste of US taxpayers money. It would be better spent in the US.


  • Wahab
    Feb 14, 2012 - 9:27AM

    @Harry Stone: Tell your government that. We Pakistanis don’t want U.S. aid, it only goes to corrupt politicians who act like puppets of your government.


  • Ahmer Ali
    Feb 14, 2012 - 10:02AM

    Yes definitely aid can salvage US-Pakistan relations but only the Pakistani leaders’ relations with US’ leaders not the Pakistani nation’s relations with USA.


  • YeaRight
    Feb 14, 2012 - 11:11AM

    @John B
    For the first time on this website I actually agree with you on this website. No amount of aid is going to win hearts and minds of Pakistanis, because US always uses aid to NOT help but BUY favours. It gives us money, and then arm-twists and blackmails us all year long. Honestly, ever since US aid stopped things have been alot better in Pakistan because the US has been forced to keep its mouth shut in wake of recent events. I really hope it stays this way. Keep your aid, even Egypt doesnt want your aid anymore because everyone knows it brings more trouble than help.


  • YeaRight
    Feb 14, 2012 - 11:18AM

    We dont beg, this is money US anyway owes us for all the help we provided on WoT. But even then atleast we have an excuse for so called ‘begging’. What is Indians excuse for taking aid if its doing so well economically?? India is scheduled to get development aid from Britain to the tune to 500 million dollars this year, that’s roughly the same amount Pakistan gets from the US.India also gets alot of aid from US too (in 2010 it was 126 million dollars) Before you jump to taunt others make sure you are not guilty of doing the same and making a fool out of yourself.


  • Harry Stone
    Feb 14, 2012 - 10:20PM


    I have an American friend who is in fact writing to his two Senators and telling them just what you suggested.


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