The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘aid

How to survive an economic recession, the Taliban way

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afghanistan_pakistan So the Taliban take bribes. That’s new. /end sarcasm.

That was my first thought after I finished reading this article on Global Post about sources of funding to the Afghan Taliban.

The new feeling is that less than half of the Taliban’s war chest comes from poppy, with a variety of sources, including private contributions from Persian Gulf states, accounting for much of the rest. Holbrooke told reporters that he would add a member of the Treasury Department to his staff to pursue the question of Taliban funding.

But perhaps U.S. officials need look no further than their own backyard.

Anecdotal evidence is mounting that the Taliban are taking a hefty portion of assistance money coming into Afghanistan from the outside.

The idea is fairly simple: the Taliban take their cut from aid funds so that the projects can actually be implemented. Why is this anything new is beyond me. The article suggests that ‘US officials need look no further than their own backyard’ but frankly, the Taliban are used to asking for their cut. They’ve been bribed by spy agencies and their governments for decades now and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

It’s the economy, stupid: So who’s funding the Taliban? Foreign governments, spy agencies, drugs, illegal cigarettes, sympathizers…its a fairly usual list. And given that there’s an economic recession, I bet they don’t want to end up like Al-Qaeda.


Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 15, 2009 at 4:19 am

The Kerry-Lugar bill hysteria continues

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Senators Kerry and Lugar: Who knew they'd be this famous in Pakistan? (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Senators Kerry and Lugar: Who knew they'd be this famous in Pakistan? (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I know, I know. Its hard to think of anything else while the ‘WTF!?’ feeling of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win settles in. But try we must.

There’s always this sense of doom I associate with Fridays. Perhaps it started with that horrific blast at a mosque on I.I.Chundrigar Road in Karachi in 2004, an incident that caused people to think twice before they knelt in prayer, wondering if they would live to sit up. But as I sat at work this morning thinking of how it had been a quiet Friday, word filtered in of the horrific bomb blast in Peshawar which killed 49 people.

And then I thought of all the time spent on debating the Kerry-Lugar bill: the war of words, the protests, the statements, the furious fist shaking and nose thumbing. From the army to the opposition to everyone and their uncle, the opposition to the bill seems to be mounting. But here’s a thought:  will the reaction to the bomb blast be as anger-laden as the reaction to this piece of legislation? Could the Pakistani government and the political parties not have spent this time and effort focusing their energy on working towards strengthening the security situation? Could the MNAs and MPAs busy issuing statement after statement not have spent this time working for the interests of their constituency? I’m all for a healthy national debate. But given the problems Pakistan does have (not the ones that appear to be collective hallucinations – ‘They’re out to GET US!‘ seems to be the mood in the air), isn’t it laughable that politicians are so misdirected and paranoid?

From the IRI survey on Pakistan

From the IRI Pakistani public opinion survey

Seriously, can we not forget about the paranoia, and focus on Pakistanis instead?

That does seem like too much to ask for.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 10, 2009 at 4:36 am

Posted in Pakistan, US

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

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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

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