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Aid and army in Pakistan

Aid and army in Pakistan
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First Published: Thu, Oct 15 2009. 01 15 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Oct 15 2009. 07 33 PM IST
Getting money where it is most needed is a difficult job, even in the best of times. In case of countries hit by internal conflicts, the task is doubly difficult. Add the presence of an assertive army in the list and you can virtually write off any hope of success. The US faces a mission impossible of this kind in Pakistan. Its aid package of $1.5 billion a year under the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, 2009, is facing turbulence in Pakistan.
The Act (also known as the Kerry Lugar Bill) has certain safeguards built into it. These are primarily meant to keep money provided to Pakistan from being misused or diverted for other purposes. The Act is ambitious in scope: Education, police modernization, greater access to healthcare, generation of employment opportunities and a host of other activities have been included in its ambit.
While much of this is innocuous and standard, there are some provisions that have attracted the ire of the Pakistan army. There are sections of the law that mandate that money meant for programmes to improve security and fight insurgents in the country be routed through the elected government of the country. Then there is the condition that Pakistan desist from supporting terrorists who attack neighbouring countries (read India). Release of money from the US is dependent on the secretary of state and the US president’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af-Pak) issuing certificates of “good behaviour”. These have drawn the ire of the Pakistan army.
It is doubtful if the US can change long-standing behaviour on the basis of good conduct certificates. There have been previous occasions when aid to Pakistan has been stopped after the US president refused to issue such certificates. The Pressler Amendment in the 1980s was one such failed attempt.
It is unlikely that things will be different now. This is due to two factors: First, Pakistan has used terrorist groups for too long as tools against India. Outfits such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba are part of its army’s “strategic reserve” in the fight against India. One law can’t alter misguided thinking.
The second, more important factor, is the extent of misbehaviour tolerated by the US. The Act, let us not forget, is to secure Pakistan’s cooperation in the war on terror. It needs Pakistan more and not the other way around. It is sure to tolerate Pakistani misdeeds even if publicly it issues some statements to mollify countries such as India. In short, business as usual.
Will Pakistan misuse aid from the US? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Oct 15 2009. 01 15 AM IST