Tuesday, 9 September 2008

On US-Pakistani Relations and the Aid Affair

There is an interesting article in today's 'News' by Mosharraf Zaidi called 'Joe Biden's Massive Pakistan Discount'. He takes a look at the recently passed Biden-Lugar Bill in the States which pledges $1.5 billion a year to Pakistan over the next ten years if it meets certain conditions (prosecuting the war on terror and democratic institution-building).

Firstly Mr Zaidi criticises the bill, pointing out that Georgia, with a population of 26 million is getting $1 billion in aid, while Pakistan with a population of over 170 million is getting $1.5 billion. He helpfully provides the following statistics:
In 2006 America's $9.9 billion aid programme in Iraq represented a $353 US contribution per Iraqi. Jordan's comparatively meager $562 million package translated into about $91 per Jordanian. Afghanistan's $3.74 billion programme meant the US provided $114 in assistance for each Afghan. Egypt received $1.79 billion, or about $22 per Egyptian citizen. At $1.5 billion, America's Pakistan assistance package will provide less than $9 per Pakistani citizen (or $8.72 to be precise). The true extent of the discount can be gleaned not by comparisons to post-conflict zones, or countries with solid gold records of friendship with the US, but by a comparison with Georgia, which will get roughly $217 per citizen. In cold numerical terms this means that one Georgian is worth roughly 25 Pakistanis.

This first argument does not seem entirely fair. Firstly, the US is pledging $1.5 billion per year for ten years - in other words $15 billion. Which means that Pakistan would get roughly $80-odd per citizen. Still not a huge amount but fairly substantial. Also its worth pointing out that the aid to Georgia is split, with about $500 million sent this year and the rest to be decided on later.

Its also worth pointing out that Georgia, according to the NYT has received a total of $1.8 billion over the last 17 years, while since 9-11, Pakistan has received over $11 billion (admittedly mostly military aid, but then thats what the military government demanded) and that's not including loans through US-dominated lending institutions and loan deferments etc.

Still, the author's basic point has merit. $1.5 billion isn't going to be working any miracles. His second point seems to be much more pertinent. In his proposal on American policy with Pakistan, Joe Biden rightly said that the American relationship with Pakistan has to move from a transactional to a normal, functional one. But in tying strings to this aid and making it dependent on stopping the Taliban and fighting Al Qaeda, this bill brings the relationship right back to being transactional: Cash for blood.

This is bad for the Pakistani government. And its bad for the Americans as well. Mr Zaidi points out that the Pakistani state is clearly not an effective one - the whole raison d'etre of providing aid aimed at building governmental and economic infrastructure is to make it effective. Yet this aid is conditional on the Pakistani state acting effectively against the militants. This is not a winning strategy.

Far more astute would be a strategy which provides aid aimed at building institutional capacity regardless of the war on terror, and making military aid conditional of performance. This is what Joe Biden has suggested and there's no good reason not to go for this idea. Eventually the idea would sink in to the military types in Islamabad that their strategic interests would be furthered by dismantling the Jihadist framework of regional security than by hanging on to it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Charlie Wilson's Chair

Via Twilight of the Weimar Era, we learn that UT Austin is establishing a chair in Pakistan Studies in their South Asian Studies department. And its named after Charlie Wilson! Yes, that's right, I said Charlie Wilson!

What better way to encourage the serious study of, and promote the nuanced understanding of Pakistani society, history and culture by naming a post after this man? (Pic: Time)

But the kicker is that under our good General, the Pakistani government was 'extending its services' to help raise money for the endowment. Yes, the Pakistani government always was good at extending its services to good ole Charlie Wilson, wasn't it.

Two Views on Shahbaz Sharif

Here are two views on Shahbaz Sharif. What they both highlight is his dynamic, personal style of government. But while this article finds this generally a laudable quality, this editorial highlights at least one problem to arise from his style of leadership.