[Article] The Double Game by Lawrence Wright at the NewYorker, May 16, 2011
While the US has now announced to stop military aid to Pakistan and the common narrative is still “those Pakistanis are so ungrateful for all the Aid”, while the fact that the Aid referred to goes to the Army which is not really the agent of Pakistani society making sure the people is empowered, Wright looks at it in a more nuanced way.
Eliminating, or sharply reducing, military aid to Pakistan would have consequences, but they may not be the ones we fear. Diminishing the power of the military class would open up more room for civilian rule. Many Pakistanis are in favor of less U.S. aid; their slogan is “trade not aid.” In particular, Pakistani businessmen have long sought U.S. tax breaks for their textiles, which American manufacturers have resisted. Such a move would empower the civilian middle class.
One problem here is of course, that (also in reporting) no fine distinction is made between what actually goes to the Military and what to the Civil sector. A recent Guardian article looks at this distinction in retrospect.
US aid to Pakistan has a long political history and this is not the first time money has been withheld.
The major flaw of this report is, that it has to stick to some grade of official narrative lingo to be accepted in the circles it wants to be taken serious in. “The U.S.-Pakistan relationship will remain critically important for decades, and there will be other Pakistans.” in the Preface sums it up bluntly. While the report deftly criticizes the US approach to Aid in Pakistan and points out facts and figures that summarize some current basic assumptions that need to be corrected, it is only Pakistan that will need to change as a country. Little indicates that it’s the relationship, and hence both partners, that need to adapt – that is, there will also be other United States! Statements like “suspicion abounds in Pakistan that the United States’ aid spending is driven more by security concerns and objectives than by development best practice” still point into the direction that we need to change the Pakistani’s perception, not our actions. I understand this narrative to be a concession to political circles and the public which has little understanding for the fact, that our current flawed narrative of the country makes billion $ investments futile or even counter productive. It may not be job of policy consultants as the CGD to tackle that – but reading such a report, one should keep it in mind. While there is no will to understand Pakistan as a society, a nation, a country and a multitude of identities rather than one entity of aid-receptor, such lengthy papers are for the bin.
Earlier mentions of reports on Aid to Pakistan are found here
Anjum Altaf puts the criticism of the report more bluntly and elaborates extensively:
If Pakistan’s problems cannot be solved unless its political institutions and leaders tackle them head on, if no amount of money can serve as a substitute for fundamental reforms, and if aid has no impact on the outcomes of the political process, what remains of the case for aid?