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Throwing money the wrong way

This had to happen sooner or later. The New York Times report about Pakistan squandering billions of dollars in US aid meant for fighting terrorism will not push up many eyebrows.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2007 22:33 IST

This had to happen sooner or later. The New York Times report about Pakistan squandering billions of dollars in US aid meant for fighting terrorism will not push up many eyebrows.

And even fewer people will be surprised that the money was siphoned off to shop for weapons systems to be used against India. Apparently, in the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration deposited nearly $ 11 billion directly into Pakistan’s treasury to ‘reimburse’ its military for expenses in helping the US’s fight against global terror.

Only it turns out that over half of this amount never reached the military units it was earmarked for. Instead, Islamabad’s military masters diverted these funds to address their more immediate concerns in the neighbourhood.

Since most of the money was given in the form of untraceable cash transfers, it must have made it easier for the Musharraf regime to cover its tracks. Until now. Not that Washington is in a position to upbraid President Musharraf, considering he holds the key to solving the political mess in Pakistan.

In 1979, the Carter administration suspended aid to Pakistan — except for food aid — when Islamabad’s clandestine uranium enrichment activities were exposed. Islamabad, however, was let off the hook when the US pumped money into Pakistan and Afghanistan to help defeat the Soviets. Pakistan also wriggled out of the Pressler Amendment — that choked off military aid — in the 1990s by trading nuclear technology in the black market.

Washington should realise that fighting terrorism in Pakistan calls for much more than military solutions, although Mr Bush would rather tell it to the Marines, the way he is obsessed with these elements.

It’s a pity the advice of the US National Security Strategy of 2006, which concluded that democratic forces are the real antidotes to terrorism, has fallen on deaf presidential ears. For this would ensure the US remains stuck in a subcontinental time warp of its own making.

Otherwise, why should the US Defence Department set aside $ 780 million as aid to Pakistan this year — nearly ten times as much as the $ 80 million slated for India, which is also a regional ally in the war against terrorism?