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Why Pakistanis would reject $7.5 billion in US aid

New poll indicates that the Kerry-Lugar bill, already confronting opposition from Pakistan's political and military establishment, faces a wave of popular distrust of the US as well.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 14, 2009

A demonstrator jumps over burning tires during an anti-American rally in Peshawar October 7. Dozens of supporters of Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami gathered in the streets of Peshawar to voice their discontent with the Kerry-Lugar U.S. aid bill.

Fayaz Aziz/REUTERS


New Delhi

The United States is offering $7.5 billion to Pakistan for development – but only 15 percent of Pakistanis support accepting it, according to a Gilani Poll/Gallup Pakistan survey released Wednesday. It is not affiliated with the Gallup polling group in the US.

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Barely a quarter of the 2,500 Pakistanis polled believe the money earmarked in a bill put forward by Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana will improve the ordinary lives of the people.

The poll comes after Pakistan's military and political opposition strenuously objected to various strings attached to the aid, opening a rift in US-Pakistan relations.

Senator Kerry said Wednesday that there are no conditions attached to the bill that "impinge" on Pakistan's sovereignty. But the people of Pakistan, it seems, aren't convinced. The outcome of the poll suggests that the US, which is facing opposition from Pakistan's entrenched political and military establishment, is also confronting a wave of popular distrust of US motivations.

"It's not something that only the Islamabad pols discuss," says Ijaz Shafi Gilani, the Gilani Poll/Gallup Pakistan pollster. "It's not only about the conditionalities [on the money], but disenchantment with aid as an instrument of development."

The bill's controversial conditions

The conditions on the Kerry-Lugar aid that have proved most controversial include "direct access" to Pakistani nationals associated with nuclear proliferation, ensuring civilian authority over military promotions, and certification by the US Secretary of State that Pakistan is cooperating on counterterrorism.

Additionally, the tone of the whole document is "quite humiliating," says Khalid Rahman, head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad. The bill states that monitoring and certification requirements can be waived if it's in the American national interest, meaning "it will be the American interests – not the Pakistani interests – that will be served."

Initial efforts by the Pakistani government to declare the bill a success have fueled the outrage, since some of the concessions supposedly won through its lobbying efforts in Washington ring hollow. Congress merely inserted vaguer language, critics say.

"They took out "India‚" but instead they put in the wording of "neighboring countries." You know and I know we are not neighbors of Tanzania and South Africa," says Sen. Tariq Aziz, a spokesman for the opposition PML-N party.

US skepticism