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Monday, August 23, 2010

Humanitarian aid is not Valentine gift…..

There is no doubt about the fact that in the present humanitarian crisis triggered by the monsoon floods, USA is the largest donor to Pakistan. The people of Pakistan should be grateful to American taxpayers whose hard-earned money is trickling into relief efforts. Government of Pakistan should also be grateful to USA’s present administration for proactive efforts to make it happen. Although irresponsible statements of some responsible people in present Obama administration reflect a real bad taste like making the Pakistanis realize that China and Islamic block has not done as much as USA was doing, the American aid is substantial and if the USA is on your side then aid from other sources is not an issue any more.
Having said that, it is also important to note that this aid may not alter the perception that Pakistanis have about the USA. These perceptions may not be 100% true like any other perception, but these have a effective role about inter-state relationship. Let us discuss these perceptions; Pakistanis like other Muslims have reasons to think that Americans patronize their enemies like India and Israel in violations of all norms and ethical values. They also think that Americans have always used Pakistan and then discarded it, in fact thrown it into garbage bin, and in spite of Pakistan’s sacrifices, has always been bullying and brow-beating Pakistan. They will again abandon Pakistan after withdrawing from Afghanistan like they did when Afghan Jehad came to a desired conclusion. 
Apart from all these conceptions or misconceptions, fact of the matter is that USA has so far failed to appreciate the sensitivities of Pakistanis for whom anybody standing by or supporting their archrival India can never be their friend and that aid money is only the quid pro quo for services rendered. China and Saudi Arabia have already appreciated these sensitivities. Americans should make Pakistanis believe that political priorities of American establishment apart, American people are genuinely sympathetic and friendly and whoever has had any interaction with them will testify to this.
Some section of the media was expecting overnight change in these perceptions after the aid, although humanitarian aid was not meant to melt the hearts as it was not valentine gift. According to New York Times, Mr. J. Brian Atwood, President Bill Clinton’s chief of U.S.A.I.D., the United States Agency for International Development, who is now dean of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs has said, “We shouldn’t be using it to proselytize. Helping others has always been an American value.” But, he added, let’s not be unrealistic. Politics does creep in.
Islamic charities are also at work: Pakistan is Islamic, and Islam lauds charity just as Christianity and Judaism do. “There are a whole range of people working here, largely quietly and unsung,” Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, a Pakistani public health expert who wrote an editorial on the crisis in The Lancet medical journal, said in an e-mail. “They are neither Taliban or Al Qaeda, and to call them such is a travesty.” Nonetheless, the idea that the Taliban and the American Army are fighting to see who can hand out tents faster is firmly present in the debate.
Pressed on the issue by PBS Newshour, Richard C. Holbrooke, special representative to the region, said the administration was “not oblivious to the political and strategic implications” of its aid. But, he said, “We’re doing this because the people are in desperate need.”
Do those other implications matter?
Yes, some experts insist. Mark L. Schneider, a former Peace Corps director now with the International Crisis Group, noted that in polls taken by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project three years before the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, only 10 percent of Pakistanis viewed America favorably. In the year following the quake, in which American helicopters flew dozens of rescue missions, 27 percent did.
Predator drone strikes have since weakened that goodwill, but “my guess is that it will come up again,” Mr. Schneider said. “The U.S. is the single largest donor to this effort.”
Andrew S. Natsios, U.S.A.I.D. director under George W. Bush, now teaches at Georgetown and is an even more fervent believer in using aid to sway minds. “To suggest people won’t have a reaction when they see us feeding our enemies and our friends at the same time is silly,” he said.
Before the 2004 tsunami, he said, only 28 percent of Indonesians admired the United States, while 58 percent admired Osama bin Laden. Three months later, after Navy helicopters had flown rescue missions and delivered thousands of aid packages, “and after there was a big debate in the papers about where ‘our friend bin Laden’ was,” he said, approval of the terrorist leader had fallen to 26 percent and approval of Americans was at 63 percent. (Mr. Natsios cited local newspaper polls gathered by America’s embassy; polling by the Washington non-profit Terror Free Tomorrow shows the same trend.) [Courtesy: New York Times]

1 comment:

  1. are there any dollar figures available on the aid received by Pakistan from various countries? I was under the impression that Saudi Arabia was the biggest donor not pledger.