Pakistan could become the largest recipient of British aid from next year. In order to quality, all Pakistan has to do —apparently — is to get its senior politicians, including president Asif Ali Zardari, to start paying more taxes.
Despite widespread concern about the role of its army and intelligence in the Afghan conflict, Pakistan is on course to getting a massive handout of £446mn a year from 2014-15 — an unprecedented 67% jump from the £267mn it gets at the moment.
Now, an all-party committee of MPs — in a report published on Thursday — has mounted a scathing attack on Pakistan’s ruling elite, laying down the pay-more-tax conditionality while accusing it of not bothering about the welfare of the Pakistani poor.
“…We cannot expect people in the UK to pay taxes to improve education and health in Pakistan if the Pakistani elite does not pay meaningful amounts of income tax,” said Sir Malcolm Bruce, chair of the Select Committee on International Development.
“Pakistan’s rich must…demonstrate a clearer commitment to improving conditions and basic opportunities for all their fellow citizens by paying more in tax than they do under present arrangements.” A recent Pakistani media investigation found that two-thirds of Pakistani MPs had not filed a tax return. The accused included Zardari, former PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and interior minister Rehman Malik.
The committee also noted widespread media reports “that whilst the UK and its allies have been fighting the Afghan Taliban over the past ten years at the same time the Pakistan Security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), have been supporting them.”
In its hearing, it was told members of Pakistan’s military were becoming increasingly concerned at India’s rapid economic growth compared to Pakistan’s, and “that was inclining some of them to think more seriously about what Pakistan needed to do to achieve economic development.”
“Making Pakistan the largest UK aid recipient is controversial given it’s unstable politics, large defence budget, historic levels of significant corruption, tax avoidance, low levels of expenditure on education and health programmes and its status as a middle income country,” the report said.