Despite many billions of dollars, international assistance to Pakistan, particularly from the U.S., its largest donor, is neither improving the government’s performance against jihadi groups nor stabilising its nascent democracy.
Aid and Conflict in Pakistan, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how the U.S. focus on military funding has failed to deliver counter-terrorism dividends, instead entrenching the military’s control over state institutions and delaying reforms. In order to help stabilise a fragile country in a conflict-prone region, it concludes, the U.S. and other donors should focus instead on long-term civilian assistance to improve the quality of state services, in cooperation with local civil society organisations, NGOs with proven track records and national and provincial legislatures.
Since 2002, U.S. funding has been heavily lopsided: $15.8 billion for security purposes, compared to $7.8 billion in economic aid. Because U.S.-Pakistan ties continue to be narrowly defined by counter-terrorism imperatives, many Pakistanis believe that Washington is only interested in short-term security objectives.
“U.S. support for long-term democracy and civilian capacity building is the best way to guarantee the West’s and Pakistan’s interests in a dangerous region”, said Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “But aid policies must be better targeted, designed and implemented”.
Because of strained U.S.-Pakistan relations, particularly since the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden near a major military academy in Abbottabad, donors and their implementing partners face increasingly difficult conditions. Along with bureaucratic and military restrictions on NGO staff and activities, rising security threats, particularly kidnappings-for-ransom, also impede aid delivery.
The Obama administration’s aid policy, which limits U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NGO input into program designs and strategies and stipulates an abundance of rules and reporting requirements, constrains the capabilities of USAID and its implementing partners. Short-sighted policies aimed at winning hearts-and-minds through high visibility “signature” development projects are often mired in a sluggish and unaccountable bureaucracy. Instead of measuring success as a bricks and mortar game, economic aid should focus on supporting democratic strengthening, capacity building for better delivery of services, economic growth and civilian law enforcement.
All military funding should be rigorously monitored, and the administration should apply congressional certification requirements that the Pakistan military has ended its support to jihadi groups, holds human rights violators to account and does not subvert the democratic process. Above all, Congress and the administration should not allow frustrations with the military to restrict economic assistance and support for the democratic transition.
“Without a change of course, U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001 will leave a legacy of failure”, said Paul Quinn-Judge, acting Asia Program Director. “In Pakistan, it will be remembered for failing to provide effective support for democratisation, and in the U.S. for failing to deliver on stability and counter-radicalisation”.