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.
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Pakistan's Army vociferously objected to the bill earlier this month – after the US Senate passed it. The military's intervention, coupled with a backdrop of past misuse of US funds, lead some US experts to caution against taking Pakistan's objections too seriously.Skip to next paragraph
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"The problem for Pakistan is that it knows the Kerry-Lugar restrictions represent legitimate US concerns ... not in the interests of the Pakistani Army and other elites," writes Timothy Hoyt, a regional expert at the US Naval War College, in Foreign Policy magazine. "[R]ather than reject the remarkably generous provision of aid, Pakistan's military will seek a work-around in practice ... maintaining their questionable activities at a sufficiently ambiguous level."
Could US goals backfire?
But if one American goal was to champion greater civilian control over the military, this bill will only accomplish the opposite, argues Mr. Rahman.
"There are very few people in Pakistan who endorse military rule, so the Army has already lost that ground, and it knows its limitations," he says. "Greater [public] trust in civilian institutions will not come with American support – that, the Pakistani people will never trust."
A more successful US approach, he suggests, would have been to run the terms of the aid through Parliament rather than working through individual leaders, especially the deeply unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari.
Mr. Gilani, the pollster, admits that Pakistan may come off in his survey looking like "an ungrateful nation" to Americans. But, he says, after decades of American assistance, "there's a growing perception that foreign assistance doesn't deliver development."
There also appears to be a disconnect on whether the aid is all that generous. Senator Aziz figures that, given rapid inflation in Pakistan and the way huge chunks of foreign aid actually pass back to the United States through contractor salaries, the real purchasing power of the aid will diminish to roughly $200 million a year.
Both he and Rahman say the $7.5 billion over five years is a drop in the bucket compared with US taxpayer outlays in Afghanistan. Conservative estimates place the economic losses to Pakistan caused by the war on terror to be $35 billion, notes Rahman.
"Pakistan has suffered a lot in terms of money, in terms of human lives, in terms of law and order, in terms of losses in investments and infrastructure. If, after that, America comes up with $7.5 billion, but you are required to do this and this, I don't think Pakistanis are really convinced," says Rahman.
The Pakistani diaspora sends back $6 billion a year, suggesting to Rahman that his country ought to tap its own people instead for financial help with fewer strings attached.