Posts Tagged ‘Institute of Policy Studies’

Reality check for “insignificant” US aid

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

While the American Congress debates whether to cut aid to Pakistan, the media seems to be taking it upon itself to make the case that the US doe snot need to be sending any more money to Pakistan. No, I am not referring to FOX News, I’m talking about Pakistani media.

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Humayun GauharA prime example can be found in Humayun Gauhar’s article of Pakistan Today last week that inaccurately reflects the amount of aid Pakistan has received from US since 9/11.

Hamayun Gauhar in his piece says that “Since 9/11, Pakistan has received only about $448 million net in economic assistance”. But a February 2010 article in The News (Jang Group) reports that “Islamabad has received $6 billion in civilian aid after the September 11 attack in New York”. Which is correct?

We decided to do some research of our own to fact check Humayun Ghauar and The News to find out who is telling the truth, and who is stretching it thin.

Gauhar terms US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 27 May statement that “We provide more support than Saudi Arabia, China, and everybody else combined…” as ‘bull’. He later invites readers to compare American aid “to China’s spending of $30 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan”.

What Gauhar doesn’t tell is where this $30 billion from China is being spent. That’s because, there is no $30 billion in Chinese aid. What Gauhar is likely referring to is the $30 billion in trade agreements between Pakistan and China signed last year. Not only is this not aid, it doesn’t even exist yet.

The two sides inked 35 agreements; including 13 at the government level and 22 between their private sectors that are expected to bring around $25 to $30 billion of investment over the next five years.

This is not to look down on trade agreements which are actually quite important. But Gauhar is comparing apples to oranges by comparing the amount of aid US has given Pakistan since the past ten years and a promise of increased trade with China to happen over the next five years.

Let us, then, compare some apples to apples, shall we?

According to statistics from the State Bank of Pakistan and Pakistan Development Assistance Database compiled by Center for Global Development, for years 2004-2009 the US on average gave Pakistan $268 million in grant assistance. China gave only $9 million on average during the same years.

Loans and Grants charts from Center for Global Development

Additional research from Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad shows that between the years 2001 and 2006, US gave Pakistan $2,939.3 million in Economic Aid.

Year

Economic Aid, US$(2006) M

Military Aid, US$(2006) M

Per Capita Aid, US$(2006)

2001

212.1

0

1.45

2002

875.8

329

8.1

2003

362.7

287.9

4.29

2004

377.9

89.8

3.02

2005

467.8

322.4

5

2006

643

299

5.84

Total

2,393.30

1,319.10

4.62*

* Average per capita aid per year.Sources: U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] and US Assistance per Capita by Year.

According to Center for Global Development and Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad, the US has given Pakistan billions in civilian aid since 2001. In his article, Mr Gauhar says that “Mr Anjum Rizvi of Vibe TV helped me put these facts and figures together to expose the myth of US ‘aid’ to Pakistan”. It is unknown where Mr Gauhar and Mr Rizvi found their facts and figures, but perhaps they could share them with the Pakistan Development Bank, Pakistan Development Assistance Database, and Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad since they obviously have their figures wrong.

Mr Gauhar also states in his piece that “50 percent of the aid has to be spent on US ‘contractors’ under US law, so this goes back to America” and that “25 percent is wasted on administrative expenses. The rest is given to the US Ambassador’s favorite NGO to be deposited in US accounts. Almost none makes it to Pakistanis”.

Actually, what Mr Gauhar refers to is a change in US aid policy under the Obama administration that requires that at least 50 percent of aid money be spent through the government of Pakistan as the US moves development projects away from US contractors over to domestic groups in Pakistan.

The administration said it would funnel at least 50 percent of the funds through the Pakistani government, rather than using American contractors. The aim was to show America’s commitment to the civilian government and help strengthen its ability to deliver to its citizens, American officials said. Moreover, the large overheads of American contracting companies would be eliminated, they said.

As far as we have been able to determine from extensive research, Mr Gauhar’s claim that “The rest is given to the US Ambassador’s favorite NGO to be deposited in US accounts” appears to have been been invented from thin air by Mr. Gauhar for sensationalizing the issue at hand.

Also as the New York Times piece notes, much of the promised funds have not been released due to American concerns about corruption.

To keep a close watch on corruption, U.S.A.I.D. expanded its inspector general’s office in Pakistan to nine auditors in 2010, from two in 2009. Already, the office has opened 12 cases so far this year — involving bribery, kickbacks and collusion on bidding — compared with 13 cases in 2010, the office said.

To this, Mr Gauhar demands “Prove it. Or shut up”. According to him, “The problem is more likely with American bureaucracy, not Pakistani “mistakes”. And so just as we have learned from Mr Gauhar that the US has given almost no aid to Pakistan, so we have learned that there is no corruption in Pakistan also. Otherwise, we might be thankful that the Americans are carefully watching where the aid money goes so that it does not fill the pockets of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, which of course do not exist.

However it should be stated that at least one “mistake” has been found in Mr Gauhar’s maths. In the opening paragraph of his column, Mr Gauhar states that “Since 9/11, Pakistan has received only about $448 million net in economic assistance”. But later in his piece he states that “Pakistan’s ministry of finance was prompted to seek US clarifications on how $488.537 million being provided under the Kerry-Lugar-Burmen Law (KLL) were being spent”.

If US has only given $448 million in economic assistance since 10 years, how is it that $488.537 million has been spent since Kerry-Lugar-Burman which was passed only 2 years ago?

But what is a few hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars? According to Humayun Gauhar, whatever the actual number, it is “insignificant”. Let me tell you I was surprised when I first read this, that so much money could be termed “insignificant”. I immediately began researching and found that US economic aid helped Hyder Shah Fruit Farm in Sindh deliver “150,000 kilograms of processed mangos to the Middle East and earned more than four million rupees in profit”. I also found on the USAID website that US is funding additional power infrastructure and flood control systems in Pakistan.

An example of USAID’s impact can be seen at Pakistan’s power plants, and in the hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that that will be powered thanks to infrastructure upgrades. USAID’s current energy program is designed to add 540 MW to Pakistan’s power grid by 2012.

USAID is also funding the completion of dams at Gomal Zam, Satpara, and Tarbela. USAID helped build the Tarbela Dam in the 1970s and has just completed the first phase of a turbine rejuvenation effort. When completed, Gomal Zam, located in South Waziristan, will generate electricity for 25,000 households and irrigate 191,000 acres, providing a livelihood for 30,000 households. It will also improve flood control systems, stemming serious damage that could be inflicted by future floods.

But Humayun Gauhar says this is “insignificant” and it is “the US that continues to cause problems for Pakistan”. And who are we to argue with such an esteemed journalist?

Ironically, it is US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that is most ardently defending the US aid to Pakistan, while commentators like Humayun Gauhar tell the Americans to “shut up” about their “insignificant” aid. We hope that Mr Humayun Ghauar will be willing to take a personal tour of Hyder Shah Fruit Farm and also South Waziristan to explain how the improvements to their businesses and homes is is “insignificant”. I am certain it will be an enlightening discussion.

The Nation promoting jihadi ideology?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

The Nation on Friday included a column that reads as if it were dusted off from the 1980s under Gen Zia. The author, Mr Tarik Jan, affixes to secular journalists the label of ‘communist’ and attempts to persuade readers of a Zia-era form of Islamism under the disguise of twisted logic. Worse still, his conclusion reaches to points that are beyond the pale and may approach the promotion of terrorism against innocent citizens.

Tarik JanThe author of the column, ‘Legitimising the illegitimate’, is Mr Tarik Jan who The Nation identifies in his by line as ‘a freelance columnist’. But a quick internet search reveals that there is more to Mr Jan’s CV than merely writing an occasional freelance column.

Mr Tarik is a member of the previously exposed ‘virtual think tank’ O.M. (Opinion Maker) Center for Policy Studies that has been tied to intelligence agencies and retired military officers from the Zia era. According to the Opinion Maker website, Mr Tarik Jan’s primary focus is fighting secularism and promoting an Islamic state. The ‘virtual think tank’ lists book titles by Mr Jan as the following:

  • The Life and Times of Muhammad Rasul Allah – Universalizing the Abrahamic Tradition;
  • The Secular Threat to Pakistan’s Security;
  • Pakistan Between Secularism and Islam – Ideology, Issues, and Conflict;
  • Islam and the Secular Mind
  • Engaging Secularism;
  • Muhammad Rasul Allah – Toward the Universal Islamic State;
  • Pakistani ma’sharay kay liyay la-din fikr kay mazamaraat

While Mr Tarik Jan appears to be a well funded writer of Islamist literature, we have been unable to find a public record of any religious training. Rather, the only connections we have been able to establish for Mr Jan are ties to military and intelligence related organisations.

Despite a lack of known religious training, Mr Jan uses his column to dismiss the idea of ‘secularism’ as “a worldview that robs the universe and the planetary existence of its moral and spiritual essence and tries to understand it as mechanical materialism”. This is Mr Jan’s interpretation based on the writings of George Jacob Holyoake who is credited with inventing the term. But Mr Holyoake invented the term in 1956 and died in 1906.

Mr Jan admits that the definition has changed over the past 100 years, so it must be asked why he prefers to use a definition from 1856. Could it be that he ignores modern definitions and practices of political secularism because he realises that modern definitions undermine his case?

Mr Jan goes on to say that secularism has no place in Pakistan because it is “a foreign originated concept…turned into an ideology and stretched to embrace politics, economics, morality, and other aspects of life and uses state machinery to impose it…” But cannot the same be said of Islam which was not revealed in Pakistan but brought here and transformed from a religion into an ideology by Gen Ziaul Haq?

One particular example of the danger of secularism that Mr Tarik Jan points to is Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy’s “saying that rains did not fall because of people’s prayers; rather there are laws of nature that are instrumental in the cloud formation and rains”. The author complains that the scientist did not tell the people “Who created the laws of nature”.

To Tarik Jan, such expressions are not merely an annoyance. Rather he writes that “the Quran declares such attitudes as amounting to kufr”. The author then goes on to declare that ” Muslims always considered the caliphate as a model system of governance”. And what of those who do not agree with Mr Tarik Jan about the wisdom of a caliphate government?

In the last leg of the Umayyad when the zanadiqah (atheists and secular) mounted their assault on the moral core of the Muslim society by spreading licentious living, free sex, liquor, gambling and above all atheism, the Abbasid caliphs Al-Mahdi and Al-Mansour decided to crush them. They not only killed them, but also engaged eminent scholars to write books for the eradication of the then secular threat. Likewise, Al-Mahdi’s parting words to his son Al-Hadi are a reflection of his Islamic concerns: “If Allah ever gave you the chance to rule, do not spare any effort to crush the Mäni’s followers.”

This is a disturbing statement on its own. Does Tarik Jan believe that secularists should be killed? Does he believe that he is like the Abbasid caliphs “scholars” who “write books for the eradication of the then secular threat? We must especially examine such a statement with an eye to other evidence of Mr Tarik Jan’s intended meaning. For that, we will look to his past.

In 2008, following 26/11 attack, a reporter from TIME Magazine spoke to Mr Tarik Jan and wrote that he,

pines for the golden era of the Mughal period in the 1700s and has a fervent desire to see India, Pakistan and Bangladesh reunited under Islamic rule.

Reading the closing paragraph of his column with Mr Tarik Jan’s previous statements fresh in the memory, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that his column is in fact advocating the murder of anyone who does not support a new caliphate. If this is correct, The Nation is not engaging in innocent debate, it is projecting terrorism.

The role of religion in society and government is a legitimate topic of debate. Articles by learned religious scholars are a welcome addition to the discussion so that the people can evaluate different points of view. But there is a chasm of difference between learned religious scholars and paid propagandists who believe that they are promoting jihadi ideology to undermine the state and bring about a new caliphate.

Why did The Nation not reveal the true identity of Mr Tarik Jan? Were they not aware of his past statements and beliefs? Were they not aware of his association with ‘virtual think tanks’? Rather than answering questions about religion and secularism, Mr Tarik Jan’s column in The Nation only raises new and troubling questions about what is being offered in the media to unknowing and unsuspecting readers.