US Aid For FATA in Doldrums?

US aid could fall into wrong hands
Daily Times, July 16, 2007

WASHINGTON: US officials are said to be having second thoughts about spending $750 million in the next five years in NWFP’s tribal region for fear that it will be dangerous to give so much money to an area so hostile that oversight is impossible.

A report filed from the area by a New York Times correspondent says that one of the most contentious questions between local officials and American planners relates to the recipients of this aid. They are both concerned that millions might fall into the wrong hands. The local political agents and tribal chiefs have for years accommodated the very groups the American and Pakistani governments now seek to drive out.

The newspaper’s correspondent who visited a USAID-funded hospital in the tribal areas found that out of its 110 beds only three were occupied. Two operating tables had not been used in months. Many doctors had left because the pay was too meagre and security too precarious. “Delivering $150 million in aid to the tribal areas could very quickly make a few people rich and do almost nothing to provide opportunity and justice to the region,” according to Craig Cohen, author of a recent study of US-Pakistan relations. Yet it is here in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that Washington is intent on using the development aid as a counterinsurgency tool. A USAID draft plan warns that the “severe governance deficiencies” in the tribal areas will make it virtually impossible for the aid to be sustainable or to overcome the “area’s chronic underdevelopment and consequent volatility.”

According to the draft plan the main goal of the US government in relation to the FATA is counter-terrorism. One way to improve the chances of the aid’s efficacy would be greater emphasis on political reform in the tribal areas, it states. The Pakistan government has created a panel to study reform of the political structure in the areas, the draft notes, adding, “USAID should explore opportunities for contributing its substantial experience in local government capacity building to any reform efforts the government of Pakistan decide to undertake.”

According to the Times report, a senior US official in Islamabad defended the plan’s goals as necessary and achievable. He said “Pakistani firms, consulting organisations and nongovernmental organisations” would be the main deliverers of the assistance. khalid hasan

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