“U.S. must help Pakistan provide for its people”

Special to The Seattle Times

By Ambreen Ali

THE U.S. media have become obsessed with Pakistan of late, fueling a sense of panic that we must do something quickly to save Pakistan from crumbling.

True, violent tragedies seem to occur in Pakistan regularly, overtaking headlines before the prior ones register. But the most important policy the U.S. can implement as Pakistan takes on big challenges is to step out of the way.

Those attacks are a sad reminder that for Pakistan’s involvement in America’s war, its citizens have paid a hefty price. For years, the U.S. has focused the Pakistani government on a border fight with Afghanistan, instead of the needs of its people.
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The IMF and the Taliban

imfAmong the many factors at play in the growth of the Pakistani “neo-Taliban” is the story of poverty and a failed government response to basic human needs. With the global recession underway, things have only gotten only worse for those near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Pakistan and elsewhere.

As the World Bank puts it:

“Estimates of the additional number of people trapped in extreme poverty in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis range from 50 to 90 million.”

With that in mind, it can be easy to view this weekend’s IMF/World Bank meetings as good news:  lots of talk of providing money to Pakistan and other developing nations to help during the recession.

Unfortunately, the IMF is talking about providing loans.

That means more long-term debt for the very nations that can least afford to pay it off. To make things worse, many of these loans are likely to come with the kinds of conditions that will further limit social welfare spending.

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