The UK should cut aid to Pakistan
American has recently suspended $800 million in military aid to Pakistan over severe ongoing concerns about Pakistan’s human rights record, particularly with regard to religious and other minorities.
The UK should also cut its aid budget to Pakistan and instead spend the funds on causes like food and aid for the starving in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
There are several reasons why we at the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) are calling for this.
In addition to the country's poor human rights record, endemic corruption in Pakistan means that there is very little traceability and accountability on how aid funds are being used there.
The USICRF informs us: "With regards to corruption, the country has had a consistently poor ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index, being 143rd with a score of 2.3 out of 10 in 2010.At all levels of government management, corruption thrives. The police is known for taking bribes, raping women; officers in public utilities department (electricity sector) are known to either help customers to reduce their bills or deliberately increase them to solicit bribes; the legal system is rotten, festered with bribery: those who should be enforcing law are violating it."
Then there is the issue of tax. In actual fact, Pakistan should be able to fund itself by proper taxation. Yet only one per cent of its people pay tax, and even that is voluntary. It does not actually need to rely on a cash-strapped UK for funding.
One of the main reasons given for sending aid to Pakistan is that it is considered to be an ally on the war on terror. However, there are good reasons to believe that the Pakistan government has entered into an agreement with the Taliban over the control of a major Province , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that borders Afghanistan. The fact that America had to enter a major city and military centre in Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden also suggests that Pakistan is not such a strong ally against terror as it postures itself to be.
Aid that is targeted at Pakistan generally, particularly in education, will almost certainly serve to perpetuate the ongoing discrimination and oppression of religious minorities, given the fact that such discrimination is endemic and inbuilt into the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst raising levels of illiteracy is good, they say, the fact is that levels of illiteracy are far greater among Christians and other minorities than among the wider population – only seven per cent of minorities gain an adequate level of literacy.
Primary causes are the fact that due to poverty worsened by discrimination, many Christians can’t afford to send their children to school, but instead must send them out to work and earn money for the family to survive. There are free schools in Pakistan, but their standard is generally poor, and most minority parents can’t afford the travel costs as they are often in awkward areas. In addition, these schools are often in areas where Christian children are especially vulnerable whilst travelling – the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage and conversion of teenage Christian school girls whilst travelling to school is far too common an occurrence.
Even when at school, Christian children are frequently subjected to discrimination, bullying from teachers and other pupils, and are required to recite Muslim prayers. In other words, education in Pakistan is frequently Islamicising in a coercive manner. Islamic studies is mandatory, and parents are afraid of proselytising, and forced conversions of their vulnerable children, as well as the way minorities are pilloried and falsely depicted in history lessons.
The report produced by USICRF stated: "Our review of public-school textbooks and other materials has found intolerant references against religious minorities, particularly Hindus, Christians and non-Sunni forms of Islam. Fifth-grade-level textbooks have accused Hindus of dishonest dealings with Muslims. In addition, some of Pakistan's thousands of religious schools include texts with an interpretation of Islam that promotes religious extremism and provides ideological training to those involved in religiously motivated violence, both in Pakistan and abroad."
To address these problems, the BPCA is proposing a bursary to help vulnerable Christian students get into better schools, whilst having a system of monitoring by local agents to monitor the schools to make sure no bullying or inappropriate behaviour towards the children occurs. The BPCA educational benevolent fund will award bursaries to students of all levels, allowing them access to high quality schools in Pakistan, so that the most poverty stricken members of that community can find that essential voice which will empower them to live with dignity as Christians and equal citizens of Pakistan, and make them less vulnerable to exploitation through legal, economic and other mechanisms.
We intend to fund students places in both Christian and Muslim schools and hope that doing so will counter the growing schism between our communities living there that is rooted in misunderstandings and naivety.
Wilson Chowdhry is leader of the British Pakistani Christian Association. Sign the BPCA's petition here www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/noukaidtopakistan
To donate to the BPCA bursary or any other BPCA campaigns, details can be found on its website at www.britishpakistanichristians.co.uk