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Aid to Pakistan is a recipe of disappointment: Ackerman

By Lalit K Jha
October 01, 2009 09:09 IST
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A bill passed by the Congress which triples non-military aid to Pakistan to US $ 7.5 billion in the next five years and softens the conditions on Islamabad is a recipe for disappointment and disillusionment, a senior American lawmaker said on Wednesday.
The US House of Representative passed Bicameral Legislation Increasing Assistance to Pakistan, improving US-Pakistan Ties, which triples the non-military aid to Pakistan. The bill already passed by the Senate now heads towards the White House for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
"Our success will depend chiefly on reforms taken in Pakistan by Pakistanis. And I see little in this bill to provide any assurance that such changes are on the way. I fear we are again choosing to be Pakistan's patron rather than its partner," Congressman Gary Ackerman said.
"In the end, Pakistan will absorb what we offer and remain the same Pakistan. And, worst of all, they will again claim that we have failed them," Ackerman said. Noting that Pakistan's interests and America's own are not very closely aligned, Ackerman said: "We see India as a major ally. They see India as unalterably rapacious and inherently dangerous. We see the Afghan Taliban as a wicked, oppressive and violent group intent on returning Afghanistan to primitive theocratic darkness." 
The final legislation passed by both the Congress was based on a compromise between bills passed earlier by the Senate and House.
"The fundamental question this legislation attempts to answer is, how can we best ensure the full cooperation of the government and people of Pakistan in our struggle against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other sources of violence, terror and regional instability?" Ackerman said.
"In the House text authored by Chairman (Howard) Berman, the answer to this question was to propose a long-term partnership, one in which both sides had both interests and responsibilities; a partnership of equals who were expected to
constantly, and appropriately, judge whether or not the relationship was succeeding," Ackerman said in his speech on the floor of the House of Representatives before it was passed by a voice vote.
"The compromise bill before us today, however, is not a blueprint for a partnership; it is a recipe for disappointment, followed by disillusionment," Ackerman said.  "Pakistan is too big and too complex to be a proper subject for the Senate's preferred Pygmalion-like approach. Even if Pakistanis sought such a relationship—which they very definitely do not—Pakistan is simply beyond our shaping."  They see it as a useful insurance policy. We see Pakistan's ongoing relationship with terrorist groups as utterly illegitimate.  They see these groups as both fundamentally just and as essential leverage. We see the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a fundamental obligation upon all civilised states, he said.They see it as an unwarranted foreign imposition and, potentially, a violation of their rights. And the list of contradictions could go on across a range of subjects from madrassas to arms sales, from state enterprise corruption to feudal land reforms, Ackerman said.
Having a bitter past experience, Ackerman said  the history of US assistance programs with Pakistan does not inspire confidence in either the rectitude of America's partners, or its own ability to spend taxpayers' money effectively.
"The response to such concerns is predictable: So, shall we do nothing? No, of course not. Pakistan is a country
we can ignore only at our own peril. Only a fool could pretend that what happens there is not, and will not become our concern. This bad neighbourhood will definitely come visit us even it we choose not to visit it," he said.
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Lalit K Jha in Washington