By Patricial Lee SharpeThe Pakistani military is balking at some provisions in the Kerry-Lugar Bill and not every influential civilian is jumping with joy at the prospect of $1.5 billion a year from the U.S. Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari’s civilian government is trying to persuade the Obama administration to take no account of such foolish tantrums.
Given the unusually spirited objections to U.S. aid, I decided to see what might be obnoxious about the text. I decided to try to peruse S. 962 as a proud, well educated Pakistani citizen might read it. All 33 pages. Every clause.
Reading in my Pakistani persona, I found myself getting more and more angry. I was in the mood to throw all 33 pages across the room—or maybe to rip them up and stomp on them.
For a cool billion and a half a year, the United States of America proposes to intrude into the following areas/processes/concerns of the national life of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: police; judiciary; political pluralism, equality and the rule of law; human and civil rights; media; transparency and accountability of ALL branches of government and judiciary; anti-corruption efforts at ALL levels of military and civilian administration; narcotics trade; legal and political reform of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; rural development in general; natural resources management; energy and water investments and management, employment generation; roads, irrigation and other physical infrastructure; worker rights including the right to form labor unions [this from the union-busting U.S. culture!]; primary and secondary education and vocational training and higher education; food security and agriculture; public health; vocational training; micro-finance and income generation for women.
“Is nothing to be free of American meddling and dictation?” I find my Pakistani self raging. “It was fine, it was innocuous, back when the yahoos wanted to do a little project here, a little project there, a seminar, a conference, but scaled up like this! They want to take over our whole life, beginning tomorrow!”
All projects will, of course, have to be approved by U.S. authorities, and before any money flows into these many channels of national life, the U.S. government will require a description of the role to be played by Pakistani national, regional, and local officials and members of Pakistani civil society and local private sector, civic, religious and tribal leaders, all of whom may help to identify and implement programs and projects.
“How sweet!” my Pakistani persona thinks. “Local input.”
I won’t single out any other military-related objections, because they’re been well covered in the U.S. media. But even in my Pakistani civilian persona, I feel insulted, diminished, demeaned. “These Americans are saying that there’s no part of my national life that they can’t do better, and yummy! yummy! If only I’ll do what they say, they’ll give me lots of money.”
Now as a Pakistani, rhetorically-speaking, I do love the good things of life. “But when it comes to a choice between arrogant foreign domination and putting up with the uncouth Taliban for a decade or two, maybe the burqa isn’t so bad. After all, Iran is gradually coming around.”
Of course, speaking in my American voice again, I strongly suspect that President Zardari and company are confident that they can absorb the funding, manage change and, as usual, see that the money mostly goes, however circuitously, into the pockets they choose.
“After all, what else can the Americans do? Cut off the money when they don’t like what we do with it? Ha! Ha! We’re all they have. What’s more, Pakistan’s the fifth most populous country in the world. One Pakistani for every two Americans. Plus we have an Army. And the bomb. They can’t really buy us. And they can’t push us around. So let’s play them for all they have.”
I’d like to think that American policy makers ran through these little mental scenarios and was fully prepared for the very public reaction of less than unanimous gratitude.