The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

The Kerry-Lugar bill: $7.5 billion? No thanks, we’d rather insult you!

with 14 comments

Because Pakistan just loves any excuse to burn tires and hold protests. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

Because Pakistan just loves any excuse to burn tires and hold protests. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

Sorry, Hakimullah Mehsud. Your return from the dead isn’t news anymore, since Kerry and Lugar are probably the most commonly quoted names in Pakistan right now. The Kerry-Lugar bill – approved and a cause of spontaneous applause during a meeting – has become the most talked-about subject in the country. Everyone’s jumped in the fray – political parties, analysts, talk show hosts – and as of today, so has  one of the country’s richest men. And lest we forget, so has the Pakistani Army.

You’d think people entrusted with the task of governing this turbulent country would be happy at the prospect of $1.5 billion a year, for the next five years. Scratch happy, at least somewhat pleased?


The bill has had so much opposition that sifting through the news stories requires a fair amount of time. (The Taliban should be thanking their lucky stars in their drone-patrolled skies that they never encountered such a united front from Pakistan’s political parties.) The charges against this piece of legislation are countless and the statements range from being exaggerated to hallucinatory.

“An insult” is what the Pakistan army apparently told US General McChrystal. “Its aimed at enslaving the Pakistani nation” screamed the All Parties Conference. It has brought “triumph to India”, said the PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat.  There’s even a petition filed against the bill in the Sindh High Court. The NYT has a story from Islamabad on what citizens think. PML-N member and columnist Ayaz Amir wrote last Sunday: “A convicted rapist out on parole would be required to give fewer assurances of good conduct for the future than Pakistan is required to give in order to receive assistance under this legislation.” It even put the TTP in more of a murderous mood.

Just goes on to prove, money can’t buy you love.

$7.5 billion isn't going to change this ranking, I suppose. (Figure from the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey on Pakistan)

$7.5 billion isn't going to change this ranking, I suppose. (Figure from the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey on Pakistan)

And has anyone even read the Kerry-Lugar bill? I doubt it. I finally (after days of procrastination) did and have failed to find anything that could spark such consternation. The Pakistani government has constantly been asking for more aid, wishing that the Kerry-Lugar bill would be passed soon, et al. You’d think they could have sorted out these problems beforehand.

Anywhere in the world, aid comes with conditions attached.  Its as simple as that. Its their money.

As Dawn’s oped columnist Cyril Almeida pointed out:

Frankly, the conditions themselves are arguably what the state should be doing in any case; we need to be rid of the curse of militancy and we need to do it for our own good.

But I’ve always compared Pakistan’s reaction to aid proposals to a kid asking his/her dad for 50 bucks and then complaining to the world that dad’s a miser and a tyrant when the father asks what the money is for. And right now, there are a lot of kids and they’re all complaining. Pakistan’s other problems can take a backseat while everyone kicks, screams and yells at the outrage of 7.5 billion dollars.


Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 8, 2009 at 3:25 am

Posted in Pakistan, US

Tagged with , , ,

14 Responses

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  1. FYI – Nirupama Subramanian has a lengthy Op-Ed in Today’s Hindu @

    I agree with your analysis of the Bill. Prima-Facie and based on the content of the bill there is nothing to worry. The government should demand for more and except the aid.

    The mood of the people is equally revealing. What they are looking for is accountability on what the US covertly and overtly does in the region.

    Anand Bala

    October 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    • I think its not just about accountability. One of the problems the US govt has rightly identified is Pakistan’s insecurity complex: they don’t want to be abandoned after a few years.

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 8, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      • American Policies can’t live with them and can’t live without them. In many ways it is unfair to the people of the region. It might make more sense to label this aid as “Reparations”, forcing Americans to engage over an extended period. Alas…that would need a miracle. South America is still waiting.
        No American policy maker will admit that they are a part of the problem.


        Anand Bala

        October 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm

  2. Brilliant post, Saba. Especially love the caption. I bet tire companies are making a killing in the KSE these days.


    October 8, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    • Thanks Kalsoom! Haha, not sure about the KSE but when power riots broke out earlier this summer, the used-tire sales went up dramatically.

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 8, 2009 at 5:15 pm

  3. […] Although the Kerry-Lugar Bill was in legislative purgatory for over a year and finally passed late last month, recent discussion over its conditions has inflamed the entire country. According to news agencies, the aptly dubbed “KLB,” which promises Pakistan $1.5 billion/year in non-military aid for five years, has garnered protest from a slew of camps – including figures from the opposition bench Chaudhry Shujaat [PML-Q] and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan [PML-N] – who insist the legislation amount to a compromise on national sovereignty, [also see Saba's post over at the Zeitgest Politics]. […]

  4. Well Saba, If you failed to find anything that has sparked all the ‘consternation’, then maybe you should read my blog post on the issue where I have explained which clauses of the bill are an insult, and a disgrace to Pakistan.


    October 9, 2009 at 12:42 am

    • Re: your issues

      Clause C1: The US does have an interest in Pakistan’s role in nuclear proliferation – if Pakistan continues to turn a blind eye and/or be complicit in providing information to other countries illegally, then who knows how/where that could be used? And yes, while you may disagree with the US demanding direct access, you do realize this would be in a situation where Pakistan has failed to do anything about it.

      Clause C2: I don’t think it should be seen in the context of the US holding Pakistan accountable, despite the fact that the Mumbai attackers did go after American nationals. A stop to support to terrorist networks would eliminate Pakistan’s role to a certain extent in terrorist acts committed abroad, whether thats the US or India.

      “Other relative governments.” – This is, as are the rest, a priority for the Pakistan government in any case. A cohesive strategy developed by governments in the region would help Pakistan and the countries in the region.

      The points that you’ve raised seem to be utterly taken out cf context. As I mentioned in the post as well, these conditions are what the Pakistani government should be taking care of in any case. By pointing these out, are you implying that the Pakistani government shouldn’t be stopping nuclear proliferation, or stopping their support to terrorist networks, or working with other countries to take care of what is increasingly a regional problem? Or is your problem merely with the fact that the US government has spelled them out?

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 9, 2009 at 3:17 am

    • Call me Captain Obvious but apart from what Saba has said, I’d also like to point out that $7.5b is a hell of a lot of money, money that could be very handy to boost Pakistani infrastructure and alleviate poverty, which probably kills more Pakistanis (such as the tragic stampede over flour) than drone attacks. I don’t see anything in this bill that would harm pakistan enough to justify not taking that money. And I think all your “advantage India” stuff seems very paranoid in the context of that poverty.


      October 9, 2009 at 3:24 am

  5. […] every quarter in Pakistan is using it as a stick to beat its opponents. While all the outrage over being insulted (via Zeitgeist Politics), having sovereignty disrespected and being distrusted by the United States […]

  6. Benazir Bhutto Shaheed in her book provided a coherent and articulate picture of her world view. She said in an interview and in her book Reconciliation that the power of the civilian government can be consolidated when the military is answerable to the parliament.
    CoD is a precious document signed between to major political parties, PPP and PML(N). It is also written under the heading of Civilian-Military relations that “The ISI, MI and other security agencies shall be accountable to the elected government through Prime Minister Sectt, Ministry of Defence, and Cabinet Division respectively. All senior postings in these agencies shall be made with the approval of the government through respective ministry”.

    Same kinds of clauses are given in Kerry Lugar bill that military should not interfere in political system. I believe that Kerry Lugar Bill is an endorsement of what PPP and PML(N) have signed in the name of Charter of Democracy.

    No there is need to understand that which party is soliciting the support of military to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government. It is quite obvious that PML(N) has opposed the proposed aid bill and standing with military which is negation of their commitment made with Benazir Bhutto in the Charter of Democracy. They are moving away from democratic path, eating words and promises made with PPP.


    October 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  7. Your analogy of the kid asking for pocket money was a stroke of genius!


    October 20, 2009 at 2:58 am

  8. […] Oddly enough, when asked whose war this was, 39% responded that it was America’s war, while 37% thought it was Pakistan’s. Now if only they had included a question on that other great bone of contention, the Kerry-Lugar/Berman bill.. […]

  9. This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!


    September 23, 2011 at 12:56 am

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