Development projects in jeopardy in Pakistan

Pakistani girls hold up letters that spell USAID. The U.S. Agency for International Development is working on cutting its projects in the country by the end of September. Photo by: USAID

Anti-U.S. sentiment is hurting Pakistan’s development — regardless of who or what is fanning the flames.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is working on cutting its projects in Pakistan by the end of September. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah believes the decision could change perceptions in Pakistan, where the general sentiment is that U.S. assistance has done little to uplift the lives of average citizens.

Looking at the reality on the ground, however, the solution seems misguided and is not likely to work.

Branding USAID-funded projects is a requirement by the U.S. government. But Mehdi Ali Khan, communication specialist for USAID in the country, said waivers are being given to projects undertaken in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for security reasons. She said putting up U.S. logos, for one, “can be life-threatening.”

Aid workers doing USAID-funded projects in the area are reportedly attacked by militants. One worker, Shahzad Afridi, said militants think they are “spies for the West,” The Christian Science Monitor reports. This has led many development organizations to not work with USAID, which in turn put vital projects in jeopardy.

Some argue the problem lies with USAID’s approach. Shad Begum, an International Women of Courage awardee, said the agency seems to be more concerned with brandishing its name than focusing on development.

Further, aid politicization has made the Pakistani public believe development assistance is just the United States’ way of promoting its regional agenda.

“People hate the Americans in this region because of their foreign policy,” Begum said.

But Bushra Gohar, a Pakistani parliamentarian, says Pakistan’s decision-makers who have connections to terrorist groups are fueling anti-U.S. sentiments. He said extremist groups in the country are being given a “free hand to bash the Americans.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.