US aid to Pakistan called lopsided, favouring military not civilians

US aid to Pakistan called lopsided, favouring military not civilians
By Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, December 7, 2007

WASHINGTON: US assistance to Pakistan since 2002 has been far too heavily weighted in favour of military assistance, without requiring or even expecting commensurate results in the struggle against extremism, a Senate subcommittee was told on Thursday.

Robert Hathaway, head of the South Asia programme at the Woodrow Wilson Centre told the subcommittee, which held a hearing on US assistance to Pakistan, “We have made no effort to distinguish between military assistance useful for our common counter-terrorism efforts, and aid with little or no connection to the war against Al Qaeda, nor made provision of the latter contingent upon cooperation in combating the extremists hiding in FATA and elsewhere in Pakistan. We have allowed a blanket justification of counter-insurgency to be used to rationalise assistance programmes and arms sales with minimum or non-existent connection to that objective. America’s seemingly open-ended largesse to the Pakistani military has encouraged the widespread belief in Pakistan that the US sides with that country’s dictators rather than its democrats. In this fashion, we have alienated potential friends and embittered those Pakistanis who share our values and our vision for their country. We have established economic and development programs that have frequently been unfocused, poorly conceived, or lacking in responsible oversight. We have required neither stringent accountability mechanisms for our aid, nor the sorts of performance benchmarks we routinely impose on other aid recipients.”

Hathaway said American assistance to Pakistan as to all recipients, is not simply an act of altruism. The US has every right to expect something in return for aid. Bush administration officials have never adequately explained why Washington should not require that vigorous US support require vigorous Pakistani support in return. The administration, the South Asia expert said, has allowed its understandable preoccupation with punishing those responsible for 9/11 to obscure other equally important priorities – combating domestic extremism within Pakistan, building strong political institutions, supporting constitutionalism and the rule of law, stopping the leakage of dangerous nuclear technology. The administration has justified virtually all US assistance to Pakistan in terms of counter-terrorism. To the extent that the Pakistani security apparatus has been employed since November 3 in rounding up lawyers, opposition politicians, journalists, and human rights activists, it is difficult to argue that unconditional backing for Pakistan’s military supports the war against terrorism. Inaction, he warned, conveys messages just as forcefully as action. Pakistanis will draw conclusions about Washington’s position and preferences regardless of whether the White House or Congress endorses or condemns, issues tepid equivocations, or remains absolutely silent. Under these circumstances, it behooves the US to stand with those who should be its natural friends in Pakistan. The US, he stressed, must not give the impression that it is dictating to Pakistan. It should also remain modest in its expectations. “By supporting those Pakistanis whose values parallel our own, US aid can help prepare the way for a more sustainable relationship in the long run. Congress should insist upon a thorough review of US assistance to Pakistan since 2001, including assistance funneled through the Department of Defence. This review ought to be conducted by a fully independent body, and not simply by the Department of State,” Hathaway proposed.

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