Thursday, June 2, 2011

U.S. aid to Pakistan muddled and lacks leadership, says report

The United States provides Pakistan with $1.5 billion in aid annually, but this ambitious program lacks transparency, has muddled goals and is hampered by conflicting instructions from Washington.
Those are some of the conclusions of a study from the Center for Global Development, a Washington-based group. The report paints a somber and at times alarming picture of the situation in Pakistan.
By 2030, Pakistan will have the fourth-largest population in the world, but the millions of young Pakistanis who enter the workforce every year are poorly prepared to compete. For every 100 students who start school in Karachi, only one graduates from secondary school. Power cuts and water shortages are common.
"The prospects for a positive outcome in Pakistan seem bleak....but there are reasons to believe Pakistan can turn the corner," the report says.
"The overall tone is gloomy about what's happened so far but there is a possibility that it could get better going forward, subject to a lot of serious thinking going on inside the government," says Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center and formerly a senior executive at the World Bank.
"There is potential in Pakistan -- it is a democratically elected government, there is an independent judiciary and a free press, there's a very large sophisticated urban middle class."
But the Center's report says U.S. aid to Pakistan "cannot yet boast a coherent set of focused development priorities," with the main development agency -- the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) -- neither empowered nor equipped to succeed.
"When Pakistan is addressed, security dominates," the report says. "Trade, investment and aid lose out." And trade could play a much greater role if import quotas and duties for Pakistani textiles and other products were reduced. The trouble is U.S. investment in Pakistan has declined sharply as instability there has grown.
But the report also acknowledges that U.S. aid faces another huge obstacle: the rising tide of anti-Americanism in Pakistan.
Despite the stated goal of the multi-year aid program to "demonstrate the true friendship of the American people," anti-American sentiment has only worsened in the past two years. In an opinion piece for this week, former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf argues that "there is an acute deficit of trust and confidence between the United States and Pakistan at all levels of government, the military and intelligence."
Security issues mean that the movements of staff involved with U.S. aid programs are restricted and they are typically stationed in Pakistan for just one year. The report argues that is nowhere long enough to establish meaningful relationships with Pakistani partners.
The Center's report also says there's a disconnect between Washington's expectations and what can be done on the ground.
"Congress and the administration demand local ownership, rigorous oversight and speedy results," it says. But that's not possible in a country where corruption is rife and government institutions weak.
There's also too much emphasis on how much money is being spent, rather than its impact. "For a strategy intended to promote long-term development, this is a terrible metric of success," the report says.
"USAID needs to be liberated from the pressures from Capitol Hill, the White House, the State Department," Birdsall told CNN. "USAID is not responsible for the overall strategy; it's seen as an implementing agency. So where does the strategy come from? We don't know. The strategy seems to be changing over the last year and a half."
Too often, the report says, aid for Pakistan is also seen in terms of a regional approach that includes Afghanistan. But the needs of the two countries are entirely different.
The Center says USAID should be put in charge of planning and delivering a development strategy in Pakistan, with staff that are dedicated to the country for five-year assignments. There should be greater efforts to recruit talented local staff and give them real responsibility, and much more transparency about what's being spent and where. And the U.S. should support and engage with Pakistan's reformers.
But the report also acknowledges that ultimately U.S. aid to Pakistan can play a modest role at best, given prevailing economic and social conditions. Regional changes can make a much greater difference.
"Cross-border Indo-Pakistani trade has more potential to spur economic growth in Pakistan that practically any intervention in the U.S. arsenal," the report says.

A Pakistani journalist is killed and many questions remain unanswered

By Tim Lister

I never met Pakistani journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad, but we exchanged e-mails about his work for Asia Times Online, and his remarkable scoops in interviewing some of the world's most wanted terrorists.

He was an investigative reporter in the truest sense, disappearing to remote areas of Waziristan for clandestine interviews, working contacts within Pakistan's byzantine security apparatus, delving into a murky world of conspiracies and shifting (often deadly) allegiances.

In the end, it was Shahzad's endless probing that probably killed him. On Sunday night, he was on his way from his home in the Pakistani capital to a TV station to do an interview on the security threats faced by Pakistan.

He never got there. His body was found Tuesday some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, close to his car. It showed signs of torture, according to Pakistani media reports.

You could pick any number of stories that Shahzad had written as Asia Times' Pakistan bureau chief that would have embarrassed or infuriated someone.

Long-time colleague Zafar Mehmud Sheikh told CNN-IBN after his murder: "He was an extremely critical writer. His writings in Asia Times were not liked by many circles, especially power corridors, and that's why he was always getting threats, direct life threats not from one side, from all sides."

Many Pakistani journalists believe he was killed by elements within the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, because of his frequent reporting about co-operation and contacts between Pakistani security officials and extremist groups. He is known to have received several warnings about his reporting from the ISI. But it is equally possible that his reporting had gone too far for the likes of one of the many militant groups he was in touch with.

Shahzad had recently turned several controversial pieces about the attack by militants on the Pakistani naval base in Karachi.

One of them began in a way that would not have gone done well at ISI headquarters, describing the attack as "the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass."

He also cited (as he often did) unnamed sources in the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence service, quoting one as saying: "It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested.....Now, they (intelligence) realize how the organization (navy) is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations."

In a follow-up article on May 27, Shahzad wrote: "Insiders at PNS Mehran (the Karachi naval base) provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces."

Coming just weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden a mile from Pakistan's most prestigious military academy, such reporting must have touched plenty of raw nerves within Pakistan's security establishment. It would not have been the first time.

In October 2010, Shahzad was summoned to a meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad.

According to an e-mail of the meeting Shahzad later sent to a friend, the ISI asked him to write a retraction of a story about the release of a Taliban commander. Shahzad refused.

He was then told by an ISI official: "We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know."

In comments about the e-mail made to the Associated Press of Pakistan, an ISI official said it had "no veiled or unveiled threats in it," The ISI "makes it a point to notify institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them," he added.

But it is equally possible that Shahzad had become too knowledgeable about the operations of Islamist extremists for their comfort. He certainly had amazing connections within these groups.

Last year he wrote a fascinating piece about how the Pakistani Taliban had freed an Iranian diplomat they had kidnapped in exchange for anti-aircraft guns that might help them combat U.S. drone attacks.

More recently, he spoke with Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban leader who is one of the most powerful men in Pakistan's restive tribal territory of South Waziristan and who has long been on Pakistan's most wanted list. It was the first time Nazir had ever spoken with a journalist; and Shahzad dared to ask him about his record of opposing al Qaeda:

"Nazir's expression turned serious and he seemed a little tense, but in a fraction of a second he calmed down and replied with firmness. 'This is wrong that I am anti-al Qaeda. I am part of al Qaeda.'"

Shahzad could turn a wry sentence, too. At the end of the same article, he wrote: "I was on the point of asking for elaboration when Nazir said, "Why don't you join us for lunch," indicating in the most polite but unmistakable manner that the interview was over. "

The last time we exchanged e-mails it was about his forthcoming book: "Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban." I was planning to review it for; he was pleased it would get some international exposure and proud of what he'd written. "It gives the detailed account on the real mastermind of Mumbai attack and how the same person changed the dynamics of Afghanistan war theatre," he wrote to me.

Shahzad was referring to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the most feared terrorists in the world. His 313 Brigade is by many accounts closely linked to al Qaeda. In October 2009, Shahzad also became the first and only journalist to interview Kashmiri -- traveling for two days into a remote border area. At one point he was confined to a room and told: "The area is full of Taliban, but also of informers whose information on the presence of strangers in a house could lead to a drone attack."

When he finally was introduced to Kashmiri, his first question was a zinger: "So, you have survived a third drone strike ... why is the CIA sniffing around you so much?"

Fellow journalist Mazheer Abbas knew Shahzad for twenty years, and was always worried about his safety. They first met when Shahzad joined the Karachi-based newspaper The Star. "He started as a junior reporter," Abbas told CNN's Kiran Khalid. "Immediately he started coming out with stories on ethnic conflicts, sectarianism."

"I noticed that he started moving around with people who had close contacts with militants and the intelligence agencies. I told him to be very careful because you could be used by somebody."

"He was courageous but not very careful while reporting," Abbas said -- saying Shahzad had a tendency to talk openly about his contacts. "The level of distrust was very much there among intelligence agencies as well as militant groups. He would move forward and come out with the courageous stories despite the dangers."

And Abbas says Shahzad knew his stuff. "There are not many journalists who have so much command on militant groups the way he did," he said.

Shahzad's kidnapping, in the Pakistani capital's most protected area, has shocked Pakistani journalists. His friend Zafar Sheikh said: "A person has to think a hundred times before saying anything, before writing anything, before making a report. Before performing our journalistic duties, we think a hundred times about who will be angered by it, who will be so incensed that he will want to kill you."

Shahzad never let such thoughts stop him reporting.

He leaves a wife and three children.

‘Pakistan risks becoming a polio transmission reservoir’

The continued transmission of polio in Pakistan has itself become a national emergency as the country risks becoming the last remaining reservoir of endemic polio transmission in the world.

This was said by Director, WHO Polio Eradication Initiative for Sindh, Dr. Jamil Youssef while talking to APP here on Wednesday. While appreciating the adoption of Emergency Action Plan to interrupt transmission of polio virus in Pakistan by end of the country, he attributed the situation to the failure to reach all children with sufficient doses of vaccine.

It is in this backdrop that the Government of Pakistan in close coordination with WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International has launched the emergency plan.

The goal is to interrupt transmission of polio virus in Pakistan by end of the current year, said the WHO officials.

Appreciative of the resolve expressed by the top most leadership of the country, Dr. Jamil Youssef said WHO and UNICEF have come together to help Pakistan in achieving the target that has its global implications too.

In reply to a question about Karachi, he said the fact that it hosts significant numbers of migrants and internally displaced persons makes it necessary that no child is deprived of immunisation against polio virus.

Dr. Youssef strongly dispelled the impression that there was any problem with the quality of the Oral Polio Vaccines (OPV) or that any lacunae exists in the maintenance of cold chain mechanism.

“The same vaccine is being administered in all parts of the world and each province of Pakistan. Now in several parts in Pakistan, there are no polio cases at all.”

He said the issue of refusals has to be addressed and for these communication officers, mobilisers and supervisors are being arranged by WHO and UNICEF.

WHO Coordinator for Polio Eradication Initiative -Sindh micro- level plan has been developed with all provision for its implementation with due care for minutest detail.

He sounded extremely hopeful that transmission of polio virus would be curtailed by end of the current through strong political will and coordination among all concerned stake-holders.

Our focus is to ensure highest quality polio vaccination in the high risk districts and populations that suffer from persistent transmission of polio virus or recurrent re-introduction of the virus, he said.

'Pakistan a deadly place for journalists'

Pakistan is a "deadly country for journalists", said a leading daily as it noted that just hours before journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was abducted, he was warned that his work was ruffling feathers in certain quarters. Shahzad's body, bearing torture marks, was found two days later.

Shahzad, 40, went missing Sunday from outside his residence in Islamabad and he was said to have been picked up by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence . His body was found near a canal Tuesday.

A correspondent of Asia Times Online, Shahzad wrote extensively on Islamist groups. He had authored an article for Asia Times that said that Al Qaeda's operational arm attacked Karachi's Mehran naval base after the navy did not free sailors arrested for suspected Islamist links.

An editorial in the Dawn Thursday said: "If the world labels Pakistan a deadly country for journalists, it is hardly off the mark."

The discovery on Shahzad's body and "the circumstances under which he appears to have been killed, reflects the degree of impunity with which elements seeking to silence journalistic voices can operate".

"Extracts from his recently published book (`Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban') indicates that he was in possession of facts that could prove unsettling for elements within the security establishment. Given this, there are suspicions that some sections of the latter may have been involved in his murder," the editorial said.

It added that for the journalistic community, Shahzad's brutal killing is "another grim reminder of its helplessness. Journalists are under attack from not just the terrorists, but also potentially (from) sections of the state`s security apparatus".

"Yet never is any such case investigated; no persecutor is brought to book. Pakistan is a deadly place for journalists not just because they are killed - that happens elsewhere too - but because the state refuses to pursue the cases. The message is that journalists can be silenced with impunity."

The editorial went on to say that just hours before his abduction, Shahzad "was reportedly warned by a friend that his work was ruffling feathers in certain quarters `and these people are not benign'."

"Shahzad paid with his life for this lack of accountability; so too may many more until the state stops shielding those who deal in death in the name of opaque security paradigms. The onus is on the security agencies to prove they had no role in his murder."