On January 4, 2018, U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration announced that it would cut military aid to Pakistan on the grounds that Pakistan has not been doing enough to combat the more than 14 terrorist organizations operating within its borders. Many of these organizations support international terrorist operations and carry out attacks within the borders of Pakistan.
The United States is concerned with the operations being carried out against its forces in Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. The mountainous border is porous and is a haven for terrorists. Some regions are officially governed by the Pakistani government but under the de facto control of the terrorists. North and South Waziristan are the most contested territories.
The Pakistan government recently launched a military operation in North Waziristan to liberate the area from the terrorist organizations that controlled it. The continuing success of this operation could hinge on the possible $900 million cut in military and security aid from the United States. However, the Trump administration has made it clear that the cuts would not affect U.S. humanitarian aid to Pakistan.
The United States has been aiding Pakistan for many decades, with a focus on humanitarian aid and economic development. In the 1960s and 1970s, economic aid helped to build two major hydroelectric dams. During the 1980s and the early 1990s, the United States helped to build a large power station and Lahore University for Management Science. These are only a few examples of early and continued non-military aid to Pakistan.
Currently, most of the U.S. humanitarian aid to Pakistan is delivered by USAID. According to USAID, more than $7.7 billion has been spent on non-military aid to Pakistan. The United States government has budgeted $344.5 million in humanitarian aid to Pakistan for 2018. USAID projects in Pakistan focus on six major areas: energy, economic and agricultural growth, democratic and societal resilience, education and gender equality. Examples of USAID work in these areas are:
USAID energy projects have been successful because they are multifaceted. Not only do they increase the power output of the existing infrastructure, the funds also help repair it. The most important projects are the repairs of the hydroelectric dams. Repairing these dams increases their electrical output and increases the efficient use of water from rivers and reservoirs.
- Economic and Agricultural Growth
Agriculture contributes to 24.7 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. Up to 40 percent of the working population is employed by the agricultural sector. USAID has helped improve the agricultural sector by helping small and medium farms gain access to financing. They have also introduced new crops or modified versions of existing crops. A similar approach is used to help the private sector.
USAID has worked hard to increase access to common markets, education and government in an attempt to solidify social engagement. They have also worked to rebuild areas destroyed by internal conflict and help displaced families. Helping society function smoothly helps people feel that they are part of something bigger and are not being left behind. This helps to stabilize the fragile democratic government of Pakistan.
USAID has provided more than 18,000 scholarships for higher education over the last eight years, built or repaired over 1,300 schools since 2011 and increased the quality of basic education across the country.
U.S. humanitarian aid to Pakistan has helped to build two new hospitals in the last five years. USAID projects have helped over 9.4 million women and children. Working with the government of Pakistan, USAID plans to increase funding for women’s and children’s healthcare through 2025.
- Gender Equality
USAID has helped form a registration of 496,000 women to promote voting rights, awarded 6,000 college scholarships to women and improve the care and representation of gender-based violence.
U.S. humanitarian aid to Pakistan has been effective. Over the last three years, the country’s GDP has grown by an average of 4.6 percent and 2017 saw a 5 percent industrial growth rate. Other social issues such as gender equality will take much more time to show major results. The most important milestone came in 2013, when Mahmoon Hussain was elected president of Pakistan and Asif Ali Zardari stepped down. The role of the president of Pakistan is mostly ceremonial; however, this was the first time that a democratically elected president served a full term in Pakistan. Hopefully, with time Pakistan will begin to transition and will be seen as a pillar of stability and peace in the region rather than a place of instability and violence.
– Nick DeMarco