Posts Tagged ‘Kerry-Lugar’

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.

Inconsistency And The Nation's Editorials

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Inconsistency and The Nation's editorialsThe Nation has taken a contradictory position on US Aid, saying that Pakistan should both refuse all aid and request more aid from the US depending on whether the claim fits The Nation’s immediate political agenda. These contradictory positions demonstrate that the only consistency in the The Nation‘s editorial page is anti-Americanism and anti-government.

Today’s editorial page includes the column, “Right way, at last!” in which the editors of The Nation pen the following suggestion for the Americans:

Mr Obama should also pay heed to Mr Zardari’s remark that the Swat campaign has caused an expenditure of $2.5 billion and there is need for Washington to come forward with increased assistance.

That’s right. Suddenly, The Nation is asking for President Obama and the Americans to increase aid to Pakistan.

Let’s look back at past editorials of The Nation. On November 10, 2009 the editorial “The truth please!” read as follows:

Finally, the military needs to distance itself from the US, even if the political leadership cannot do so for their own interests…It is time to create a distance between the Pakistan and US militaries and see how the latter fares in Afghanistan.

And lest we forget the drama around the Kerry-Lugar bill? Even before the controversial conditionalities were known, The Nation was already calling into question the aid in an editorial, “The price of US aid”.

The passage of this aid bill was an inevitability, given Pakistan’s importance to the War. However, that does not mean Pakistanis need welcome it…

As we can see from their own words, the position of the editorial staff at The Nation about foreign aid from the USA  changes more often than the price of sugar. If the US offers some aid, The Nation says we don’t need to welcome it, then they say the Americans are not giving enough aid! The Nation says the military should distance itself from the Americans, that the US has negative intentions, then they say that the US should be giving more support to Pakistan!

The only consistency in The Nation‘s editorials is that they are anti-America, except when they are for increased American participation. The Nation is also anti-government, except when they say that Zardari is doing “what a democratically elected leader ought to be doing.”

In fact, the only consistency in The Nation‘s editorial page seems to be the inconsistency. That you can count on.

Trying to Knock out Zardari and Army Simultaneously?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

shaheen-sehbaiMaking Sense of Shaheen Sehbai’s Recent Diatribes

By Shaista Sindhu

The Chief of the Anti-Zardari campaign in the Jang Group (Jang, The News, Geo), Mr Shaheen Sehbai at one time ran a similar campaign against the Pakistan army and General Musharraf. These days he is working over time to give the impression that the Pakistani “establishment” are out to knock out Mr Zardari. Could it be that Sehbai is trying to knock out both objects of his hate – the army and Zardari – at the same time?
(more…)

Lage Raho Media Bhai!

Friday, November 6th, 2009

I don’t know how we missed this the other day, but thank you to Adeel for sending it to us to post! The article below is an excellent example of taking the media to task for ignoring the real stories that are affecting our lives and instead hawking wild conspiracy theories and unfounded rumour. I suppose with our TV anchors so comfortable with their fame and riches, they don’t even see the real suffering of the people.

And remember, if you see any outrageous new items that need to be corrected, please send us an email at: pakistanmediawatch@gmail.com.
(more…)

Editorial Provides Insight Into Mazari's Lunacy

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

It’s not particularly difficult to find contradictions and outright misstatements in the work of Shireen Mazari, but yesterday’s editorial in The Nation proves particularly insightful into Mazari’s special kind of luncay.

The editorial in question takes on an important topic – the need for a vibrant opposition in democratic politics. But the editorial is so filled with logical fallacy and misunderstandings of democratic process that it cannot go without comment.

First, the editorial notes quite correctly that:

The country is reeling under the growing terrorism that has come to occupy centre stage and created uncertainty and fear in every household as schools have had to be closed; and the next generation of the country has had to grow up prematurely.

But Mazari’s solution is not to take the fight to these dastardly terrorist child-killers, instead she blames the government for carrying out debates about legislation that Mazari does not favor! It’s as if Mazari believes that the Parliament is her own personal kingdom.

The editorial goes on to claim, quite outrageoudly, that PML-N is providing too little opposition to the PPP government. This claim is ridiculous in on its face, but especially in light of the recent exposure of secret meetings with the military in which Shahbaz Sharif attempted to destabilize the elected government:

Sources told The News that President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and even Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar were caught off guard when the media reported the details of the secret meeting between the top leaders of PML-N with General Kayani. The sources even claimed that these frequent secret meetings between the top leaders of PML-N and the Chief of Army Staff as confirmed by Ch Nisar Ali Khan in his speech in the lower house the other day, might well have given the required confidence to the top guns of the GHQ to send the tersely worded press note to the media after the corps commanders meeting.

The immediate result of this secret meeting with General Kayani was that the very next day, to the much surprise of the PPP rulers at Islamabad, Shahbaz Sharif launched lethal attack against the Kerry-Lugar Bill.

Mazari has conveniently ignored the fact that the problem is not a lack of opposition in Islamabad – an absolutely absurd claim – but that the opposition is putting its short-term interest of power above the good of the country and risking a destabilizing nightmare.

The editorial is correct when it says that ,”Within a Parliamentary system, it is equally incumbent upon the elected opposition to raise an alternate voice within the Parliament, including casting negative votes on issues which it opposes as being counter to the country’s interests.” But Mazari seems not to understand that properly functioning democracies do not play black-bag games and plan secret meetings in attempts to destablizine democratically elected governments. Rather, the opposition should be raising questions and debating legislation – exactly what has been happening in the Parliament.

The way she discusses democracy, one would expect a game of chess against Mazari would end with her throwing all the pieces off the board, waving her arms in the air, and screaming checkmate. She neither understands the proper way to play, nor has the grace to play with class.

The ultimate aim of a democratic government is to protect the rights and freedoms, the future and prosperity of the people. It is not a game to be manipulated for the career of one individual. A proper opposition is essential to a prosperous democracy. Let’s hope Mazari someday learns what that really means.

Talat Hussain makes a $640 Million Mistake

Friday, October 30th, 2009

If anyone needs evidence that Pakistan’s most popular TV anchors just reel off nonsense without checking facts, please watch the interview given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a group of Pakistani anchors.

Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, who often speaks as if he knows everything, wanted to embarrass Hillary by “proving” that the U.S, does not give Pakistan enough. In his recent shows he has been mouthing off against the “insulting language” in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill, which triples non-military assistance to Pakistan to $ 1.5 billion per year for five years.

Talat claimed that the U.S. was paying Kyrgyzstan $ 700 million as rent for a military base in that country. Hillary corrected the arrogant and self-righteous Aaj TV anchor and said the rent was not that high but was in the range of $ 50 million. Not one to ever digest facts, especially those that prove him wrong, Talat Hussain continued on to say that must be the rent “per month.” The US Secretary of State remained polite and left the Kyrgyzstan base rent figure unresolved.

None of the other “famous and popular” anchors, including Moeed Pirzada, Nasim Zehra, Naveen Naqvi, Mubashir Luqman and others, knew the figure themselves to be able to step in and correct their colleague.

So, what does a simple google search reveal to be the fact?

The US agreed in June 2009 to triple the rent of its base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan to $ 60 million, up from $ 17 million, PER YEAR.

The US also agreed to pay an additional $ 37 million to Kyrgyzstan to build new aircraft parking slots and storage areas, plus another $30 million for new navigation systems. That adds up to a grand total of $ 127 million in the first year and a recurrent payment per year of still $ 60 million only!

Here’s the link to a CBS news story one of many stories on the subject available on the internet, beyond the crazy right-wing dominated Pakistani blogs.

Where did Talat Hussain of Aaj get his figure of $ 700 million per year? Nobody knows. Maybe from his friends Shireen Mazari or Ahmed Quraishi—all purveyors of anti-US opinions with little regard for facts.

Hamid Mir and his Ridiculous Benchmarks for Success

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Sana A’s point-by-point rebuttal of Hamid Mir’s latest piece…an excellent read!

If anyone needed more proof of the media being overrun by the disgracefully uninformed, here it is. In
this preposterous piece, Hamid Mir makes outlandish demands of United States’ policy whilst having the nerve to wonder at the mistrust between the US and Pakistan. The fact that this man is executive editor of Geo TV in Islamabad is troubling.

Taking a deep breath, I feel the only way to tackle this monstrosity of distorted facts and hysteria is to go through it, point by point.

At the end of his first paragraph, Mir brings up the favorite punching bag of Pakistan’s obsessed media, the Kerry-Lugar bill. One has to wonder: now that the Pakistani public seems to be embracing the aid package, will the pseudo-journalists go through withdrawal symptoms once this this is no longer a relevant topic?

Mir writes: “Very few people in Washington realise that tension between Pakistan Army and President Zardari were actually created by Kerry-Lugar Bill.”

Quite off the mark, the statement goes to illustrate Mir’s love for simplified truths. The Kerry-Lugar bill was up for debate for many months. The writing, drafting, research and of course, floor debate and vote process was very much an open process. Throughout this sequence, there was no outcry to be heard, no fear of losing sovereignty to be felt. If anything, Pakistanis should be aware that tougher, far more intrusive clauses were actually not approved and the bill was full of immense respect and recognition for Pakistan at the time it was signed into law. Mir misses the point that tensions between the Pakistani Army and President Zardari’s administration are mainly over the new role the army must now play: to serve the federal government. We have in Pakistan a fledging democracy, and we absolutely must give it a chance to flourish. The Army has the noble task of protecting the people from danger, and it must work with President Zardari’s government to meet that goal. Tensions are natural when the role of one entity changes, and as Kerry-Lugar also notes, the Army is on its way to becoming a powerful, professional force in place of a political one.

Mir’s next paragraph launches into a recap of a conference on US-Pakistan relations that took place at Harvard University. Mir cites Ambassador Haqqani’s declaration that democracy is the only way forward for Pakistan. Indeed, Ambassador Haqqani has said as much from Day One, and worked tirelessly towards that end. Mir laments that his question, “Why the US is not listening to the voice of democracy in Pakistan coming through an elected parliament?” went unanswered. The answer, boys and girls, is taught in International Relations 101: diplomatic relations between nations are between the federal executive branches. President Zardari will not be setting up meetings with elected members of American state and city governments, as his work directly leads him to President Obama and the State Department. Realizing that Mir is unaware of this plain fact (and also knowing this is only the second point in his article) makes one uneasy about the rest of Mir’s piece.

Does Mir advocate American involvement with the Parliament? Does Mir forget that he just mentioned the rift between Zardari and the army and that too, over American involvement? The United States most unequivocally supports democracy in Pakistan, any question of that at this point is beyond ludicrous.

His third paragraph states, “No doubt that the US is the most controversial country in Pakistan and Pakistan is the most misunderstood country in the US. There is a huge mistrust on both sides but even then both countries need cooperation of each other because they are facing some common threats. Pakistan lies in one of the world’s most important geopolitical regions surrounded by Afghanistan, Iran, China and India.”

The fact is, the US should not be hated by Pakistanis but rather identified as a true ally. The anti-terror, pro-democracy goals of both nations are so neatly aligned, it just does not make sense for conspiracy-minded Pakistanis to break up this valuable bond. There are many in Pakistan who acknowledge the US’s extended hand and are grateful for it, because they understand a stable future for their country depends on it. Others will, however, continue to blast away at the US and the West in general in visceral, illogical ways. That is why the US is controversial in Pakistan. As to why Pakistan is misunderstood…it’s simple! American taxpayers are sending over an incredibly generous, well-thought out $7.5 billion in non-military aid alone, and all across their papers and televisions are reports of Pakistanis caught up in a fury. Of course this leads to confusion, how can they be anything but confused and frustrated? Any cooperation must come with respect, and if Mir believes in the spirit of partnership, he must lead the charge and do his best to bolster US-Pakistan efforts.

In ill-structured form, Mir abruptly cuts off topic and discusses the US drone attacks. If the US is so worried about the border, he asks, “Why is there no fencing and no proper border check posts? There are more than 350 illegal entry points on the Pak-Afghan border. Every day more than 20,000 vehicles and 45,000 people cross the border without proper documents.” Once again…how can we go from hearing “The US is intruding and will soon take over the country” to “Why isn’t the US building a proper border fence?” This is absurd and baffling.

Pulling another 180, Mir begins demands for a timeline for troop removal from Afghanistan, going so far as to say the replacement of American troops with UN peacekeeping forces would be better for the nation. There are a myriad of reasons as to why all this is utterly useless. The United States has a solid interest in Afghanistan, and will do its best to stabilize the country. The entire world in invested in Afghanistan, with billions in aid coming from Afghanistan’s neighbors, the EU, USAID as well as individual donations. Mir’s recommendation exposes he clearly does not know President Obama’s administration is working on a new strategy for military operations, and are contemplating a troop increase. UN peacekeeping forces would not be able to accomplish as much, nor have equal clout as, American troops.

Towards the end of his piece, Mir must have challenged himself to spit out the most bizarre statement he could muster. And he rose to the challenge.

Nobody can deny the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan have become unsafe after the arrival of US troops in the region.

Is one to assume Afghanis were “safe” under the tyrannical, murderous Taliban regime? That the quality of life, civil liberties, access to education were readily available to all people? Is one also to forget all she knows about Pakistani history and pretend Pakistan through the 90s up until the attacks of 9/11 was a perfectly safe country? Hamid Mir, you should be ashamed of yourself. The horrors that took place should never be forgotten, and you have some absolute nerve as you try to rewrite history.

There is one thing all people need to understand at some point, and that is that the United States of America is not interested in taking over another country. We are all living in the era of globalization, our successes and failures are tangled up. It is disingenuous and immoral to lie when you are in the media, in the name of a noble profession — journalism. Perhaps Mir and others like him will slowly come around. If not, we can all be grateful cooler heads seem to be prevailing. As Pakistan is rocked with tragedy after tragedy at the hands of the extremists, the public is slowly realizing the importance of a partnership with the US.

The goal, for all of us, is a stable, prosperous and modernized Pakistan.