Civilian aid: US project fails to ‘democratise’ Pakistani parties

Published: November 1, 2015
Parties fail to adopt standards for internal democracy; US OIG says  $21.5m programme unlikely to achieve aims. PHOTO: PID

Parties fail to adopt standards for internal democracy; US OIG says $21.5m programme unlikely to achieve aims. PHOTO: PID


A $21.5 million US government programme to democratise Pakistan’s top political parties and make them responsive to constituents has all but failed due to their reluctance to adopt standards for internal democracy and transparency.

A recent report by the US Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed that the “programme activities largely stalled and it was doubtful the programme would achieve its objectives”.

‘Democracy being strengthened’

In its mid-term review of the five-year programme, the US auditors also criticised the performance of the USAID Islamabad Mission. One of the reasons for poor performance was USAID’s continued policy to award contracts of programmes financed under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act to US-based firms that did not have ground experience.

In this case too, the USAID-hired US-based institutions that according to the report could not hire quality guest speakers, and forums were also ‘poorly organised’.

To help a dozen top political parties become more effective and responsive to local concerns, USAID awarded the $21.5 million cooperative agreement in July 2011, to the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, is the chairperson of NDI’s Board of Directors.

US keen to invest in economic corridor projects

The NDI awarded sub-agreements to the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and to Pakistan’s Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO). The IRI, in turn, made an award to the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR), also a Pakistani organisation. Influential Republican Senator John MacCain is the Chairman of IRI’s Board of Directors.

As of September last year, the US had obligated $14.6 million and disbursed $10.9 million for the programme, according the report. The US decision to award the contract to IRI highlights one of the serious objections on the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act funding. In certain cases, the money benefited the Americans more than Pakistanis.

The programme is also aimed at providing opportunities to grassroots members of the parties to participate in shaping their parties’ strategies. The stated objective was that the parties could strengthen their democratic credentials.

No lucky charms in Pakistan

However, political analysts believe there is lack of internal democracy in all mainstream political parties and dynastic politics is rampant.


“Thirty-two months into implementation of the programme, none of 12 parties attended a roundtable designed to help them incorporate reforms into their party bylaws and practices,” according to the report. The political parties did not establish enough research units and policy working groups.

“The parties did not adopt standards for internal democracy and transparency,” said the report, criticising the NDI for not getting a written commitment from the party leaders at the outset of the programme.

The report said IRI also did not prepare a Pakistani research entity to be independent as planned. The NDI did not effectively manage award of sub-contract to the SPO. The NDI sidelined SPO after poor performance but continued paying it for full performance. This resulted in ineligible questioned costs amounting to $138,375, stated the report.

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Global citizen, local impressions

While criticising the USAID mission, the report stated that it did not do effective monitoring of the programme. The report said USAID claimed it conducted site visits but could not provide documents showing that it did.

The programme did make some gains like training of poll watchers and facilitation of youth and women at the grassroots levels.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Iron hand
    Nov 1, 2015 - 8:21AM

    When will the West realize that they can’t buy cultural changes in countries like Pakistan? Might as well throw those millions into the oean for the same return on investment.Recommend

  • Nov 1, 2015 - 9:16AM

    The US loves to throw away money for useless projects. What is the purpose…….we all know that. If in seventy years the US gas not been able to show the way and learn ground realities, it has wasted it’s time, money, and energy. Salams Recommend

  • Iqrar Ahmed Khan
    Nov 1, 2015 - 11:30AM

    As regards US aid programmes, first of all I always saw news regarding us aid from Islamabad, its difficult for common Pakistani to take part in ur projects via Islamabad, it should have in interiors of all provinces on the otherhand your all contacts are with ruling class of Pak not with common men, the ruling corrupt class of pak does not care for poors, they are interested only to get commissions in awarding contracts of big monetary funds oriented projects. Your own team should visit small towns/ districts which are less opportunity areas and poor people are in need of basic necessities of life. Your us-aid, if properly utilized in interior sind will show results by improving standard of life of needy persons. There are some honest, dedicated persons who can help your projects in implementations properly. Thanks.Recommend

  • Professor
    Nov 1, 2015 - 11:37AM

    This is a ingrained trait with Muslims. They have been taught an ideology that only accepts a divine leader. They cannot accept a human leader and that’s the reason why democracy has not succeeded in any Islamic nation. The ones that succeed are authoritarian leaders who brutalize their citizens and rule with an iron hand. Even Turkey masks democracy with an authoritarian figure like Erdogan. Mahathir was also one.Recommend

  • vinsin
    Nov 1, 2015 - 2:25PM

    They also cannot accept that a non-Muslim should be their ruler so no liberalism. They are also against treating all religion as equal so no secularism. Democracy without secularism has no meaning.Recommend

  • Mrs HighBall
    Nov 1, 2015 - 4:58PM

    @vinsin: and a so-called democracy with an institutionalized caste-system is just that: so-called or read: sham.Recommend

  • someone
    Nov 1, 2015 - 7:42PM

    @Mrs HighBall:
    The current PM in that sham democracy belongs to backward class. More over, that democracy can even have a minority PM that too not by coming through popular votes. Please cite one such example from your “democracy”. Recommend

  • someone
    Nov 1, 2015 - 7:43PM

    I am just aghast. These parties of Pakistan need American doles even for bringing democracy to their own party????? Is there anything in Pakistan that works without aid???Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Nov 1, 2015 - 8:41PM

    @someone: what you cited are merely tokens in a sea of ingrained prejudice; just look at the matrimonial section in any major broadsheet in India. Pakistan is basically a theocratic state, so there is no hypocrisy there. However India nonstop heralding of itself as the largest secular, democratic country is fooling nobody.Recommend

  • Nov 1, 2015 - 10:07PM

    Have been part of NDI gatherings; a waste of time. The political parties believed that the said US organization was actually collecting data of the political parties. Therefore they didn’t believe in the said organization only enjoyed their longer stays in five star hotels. At the end of the day kept continuing to their traditional way of politics. Even NDI can’t state that it’s having the complete membership of a single political party in figures. As rest of the project NDI/IRI were looked as CIA ghost warriors training youths and making the situation worsen in political system. Though they worked and aimed to be working for democracy; they actually didn’t analysed the holes in the system. Recommend

  • concern
    Nov 1, 2015 - 10:42PM

    Unfortunately USAID awards projects to doubious organizations as well, for examply recently it awarded legislative governance project to Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights, PCHR is an islamabad based NGO headed by Mr. Riaz Fatayan and Mr. Shafique Chaudhary who is also the member of National Commission for Human Rights. This group owned another organization named Community Support Foundation, which is being funded by Poverty Alleviation Fund, PPF, stopped funding after audit objection but resumed mainly because of the influence of Mr. Shafique….

    PCHR still manipulating USAID funding but USAID is silent….Recommend

  • Skywalker
    Nov 2, 2015 - 12:06AM

    @Mrs HighBall:
    We are talking Pakistan here and not India.
    Pls do not delflect from topic by making a personal attack. Will a failed Indian democracy make you feel happier? No need to be happy at some one elses problem, unless you just outright have a blind hate towards Indians.Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Nov 2, 2015 - 7:49AM

    @Skywalker: Well, bully for you ! If Indians take it upon themselves to troll Pakistani news sites they should certainly expect a certain amount of deflection if not outright broadsides fired for all the shortcomings that plague India. And kindly point me out to the ad hominem attack ?Recommend

  • Skywalker
    Nov 2, 2015 - 8:12PM

    @Rollin & Trollin:
    – Assuming someone is Indian making a statement without actually grasping the context and relevance is nothing less, in regards to @vinsin.
    – Regarding Indians or anyone else putting comments which do not agree with national narrative, suck up and hear them, you dont have to accept them. You dont own this site. If you do, then shut it down as you are not open to have different view point. Keep your fear tactics where it sells not here. Recommend

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