US interest in revival of democracy in Pak remains marginal

January 7th, 2008 - 3:36 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan 7 (ANI): The US interest in revival of democracy remains marginal and can be illustrated from the fact that American budgetary allocations to Pakistan on this count have been no more than a pittance of what has been given out to the army.
The entire US budget for democracy programmes in Pakistan in 2006 amounted to about 22 million dollars, much of it reserved for aiding the Election Commission, “an entity largely controlled by Musharraf,” a report published in the Washington Post said.
That 22 million dollars was just a small fraction of the 1.6 billion dollars US aid to Pakistan, and it was equivalent to the value of jet engine and helicopter spare parts that Pakistan purchased in 2006 with the help of US funds.
The money devoted to democracy programmes was almost doubled in fiscal 2008 to 41 million dollars, which is still less than the 43 million dollars set aside for a small country like Kosovo, the Post said.
Former and current US officials told the Post that the Bush Administration shied away from building a robust democracy programme in Pakistan because it did not want to offend Musharraf.
Now, the Bush Administration is seeking to persuade him to free democratic activists and lawyers and lift media restrictions to help make the legislative elections appear credible.
A recent study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) calculated that, excluding covert funds, the US has provided more than 10 billion dollars to Pakistan since 2001.
About half of that through poorly accounted “reimbursement” of expenses incurred in the war against al Qaeda and Taliban, the study said.
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights Lorne W Craner repeatedly lost battles over democracy aid for Pakistan during President George Bushs first term.
“There was no interest in a broad and deep democratisation programme in Pakistan that might have given the US more policy alternatives now,” said Craner.
“A decision was made to channel the limited funding in a way that avoided a risk of conflict with the government,” according to a State Department official.
He said that the Bush Administration chose to focus on health care and education assistance, such as building clinics and classrooms, which have a quicker impact on peoples lives.
When the administration submitted its budget request to Congress last year, it made clear that the main goal of aid to Pakistan was building “a stable, long-term relationship,” he added.
A USAID official provided statistics showing that the agency has devoted nearly 24 million dollars to democracy programmes for Pakistan since 2004, but almost 80 per cent of that 19 million dollars was earmarked for assisting the Election Commission, such as helping update nationwide voter rolls.
Reports from Pakistan say the effort has been deeply troubled, with the new voter list believed to be highly inaccurate and missing the names of tens of millions of Pakistanis, the Post said. (ANI)

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