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Pakistanis see friends’ $5 billion pledge as political boon

LAHORE: Pakistanis see the $5 billion aid pledges made by donor countries in a conference in Tokyo as “a development [that] has as much political as economic significance in bolstering a beleaguered civilian government”, the Washington Times reported.

Ashfaq Hassan Khan, a former chief economic adviser in Pakistan, told the newspaper that the funds were a “significant achievement”.

“Firstly, Pakistan got $5.28 billion instead of $4.25 billion, which it asked for from the friends of Pakistan… Secondly, the pledges have come as a big message from the world that it is genuinely interested in Pakistan’s stability and progress and it is willing to cooperate,” he told the Washington Times. “I think the announcement of assistance to Pakistan is more of a political importance than it is of economic significance.”

The newspaper said the pledges “reflect international concern about expanding Taliban influence in Pakistan. Militants exploiting economic discontent and unemployment have moved in recent months far beyond Tribal Areas on the border with Afghanistan to Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous state”.

In approving new aid at the Tokyo conference, “the participants… noted concern about the security situation in Pakistan and the impact on development, the investment climate and growth”, co-chairs Japan and the World Bank said in a statement.

“Aid is to be targeted at health, education, governance and building democracy,” the Washington Times said. “Pakistan is also seeking to build hydroelectric dams, roads and other projects aimed at improving security along the Afghan border.”

Zafar Moeen Nasir, chief economic researcher at the state-run Pakistan Institute of Developmental Economics in Islamabad, told the Washington Times the new aid would “help compensate Pakistan for $35 billion he said had been lost due to the country’s participation in the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda”.

“I think the pledges at Tokyo are indications that US and other friends of Pakistan want Pakistan to be a stable country,” he told the newspaper.

However, Abdul Mateen, a former Pakistani diplomat at the United Nations, said he was “not optimistic that the money would solve Pakistan’s fundamental economic problems”.

“Aid and assistance is only good if it is spent productively, as it generates resources, skills, learning and so on,” he said. “Unless it leads to development, the aid or loan is dysfunctional. The pledges made at Tokyo for Pakistan would give the country relief and even growth but would not insure development, which is badly required.”

Political and security analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi welcomed the emphasis on building the capacity of Pakistani institutions in the new US administration’s reviewed policy for the region. “The American administration is trying to complement the use of force with socioeconomic diplomacy,” he told the Washington Times.

The Obama strategy “is also better than past policies because it is the product of more consultation with Pakistanis at both official and non-official levels”, the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Shafqat Mahmood, a former senator, said the motive remains “securing the American homeland as well as US forces in South Asia and the Middle East from Muslim extremist attacks. Pakistan will get assistance only if it implements US aims”, he said. “It is not radically different strategy as may be perceived,” he told the Washington Times. “Rather, its focus is quite narrow. It means Americans think foreign elements are there and Pakistan must ensure that they should not be a threat to US interests in the region.”

Tahir Amin, chairman of the International Relations Department of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, agreed. The new policy “is still focused on military force and drone attacks,” he told the newspaper. “The most sad aspect of the Obama strategy is that it is focused on American interests without taking into consideration that of Pakistan. It seems the strategy calls for imposing an American mission on Pakistan while it has put the Kashmir issue on the back burner.”

Amin said the fallout of the new strategy would be “negative for both the US and Pakistan”.

“Intending or otherwise, the implementation of Obama strategy would push Pakistan towards chaos as acts of terrorism would proliferate in the length and breadth of the country, and this has very much started happening. For Americans, it would cultivate far deeper antagonistic feelings in Pakistan,” he told the Washington Times.

Retired Lt Gen Talat Masood, a security analyst, said the most important aspect of the shift is that “Pakistan has been looked at as part of a much greater zone of conflict, not as an individual issue”. He said the strategy “also shows more sensitivity to Pakistani concerns over US infringement on its sovereignty”, according to the newspaper.

Source: Daily Times

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