Kerry-Lugar Bill: The Fruition of 62 years

Kerry-Lugar Bill: The Fruition of 62 years

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
by Mosharraf Zaidi

$1.5 billion a year does not measure up well against the per capita assistance that Uncle Sam has provided for countries like Jordan, Georgia, Egypt and Israel. Nevertheless, America’s friendship with Pakistan is entering a new and exciting phase. The Kerry-Lugar Bill signals a dramatic shift in how American power seeks to engage with Pakistanis. While even moderate Democrats in Washington DC are alarmed by how many Cold War bunnies President Obama has in his diplomatic arsenal, it is also true that the Obama people have a fundamentally different worldview than the one that motivated the actions of the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal of the Christian Taliban. Rest assured, the era in which that gang of neocon torturers and war-profiteers was allowed to sleep serenely in beds that Gen Musharraf and his enablers made for them is over.

Reading the Kerry-Lugar Bill exposes several pleasant realities. Its analysis of Pakistan’s development challenges is succinct, to the point and reasonably comprehensive. The depth of analysis in the bill indicates genuine American interest in serious Pakistani issues. Moreover, given the lamentable efforts of Pakistani governments to document its own development priorities (who can forget the PRSP fiascos?), the bill represents a very good summary of the country’s development challenges. Finally, to the abiding credit of American democratic institutions, the Kerry-Lugar Bill is a well-crafted document that makes no secrets of its motivations.

Section 3 of the bill is titled Findings, and is a list of the issues that motivate the bill. There are a total of 12 findings. Findings 1 and 2 are platitudinous expressions of the US-Pakistan friendship, and the $15 billion that the US government invested in the Gen Musharraf regime. Finding 3 recognises the importance of the February 18, 2008, election. Findings 4 through 9 focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and FATA. Findings 10 and 11 contain statistics about poverty and the economy in Pakistan. Finally, Finding 12 recognises the IDPs crisis caused by the May 8 Swat offensive. Nine of the twelve findings specifically refer to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, security, terrorism and/or FATA. Only one finding mentions the word poverty. This is not an accident. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is an American legislative measure designed to pursue American interests.

The bill’s three main sections further clarify the purpose and method that will define the engagement of American power with Pakistan. The first is focused on Pakistan’s traditional development challenges, titled, “Democratic, Economic and Development Assistance for Pakistan” and has up to $1.5 billion associated with it. The second is titled “Security Assistance for Pakistan” and does not specify how much money is available, but does define a new era in US-Pakistan military relations. Most importantly this section delinks American support for Pakistani national security from the military, and places the control of any support provided with democratically elected civilian governments. This is a marked departure from the laissez faire rental agreements made by American governments and the Pakistani military under Musharraf with the Bushies, and under Zia, with the Bushies’ ancestors in the Reagan White House.

The final section, and the one of most interest from a purely development perspective, is titled “Strategy, Accountability, Monitoring and Other Provisions”. This section details a complex set of planning, reporting, auditing and accounting documents that are designed to ensure that Pakistan uses the money it is given in accordance with the wishes of the US Congress — a fine and noble cause given that it is their money. The Kerry-Lugar Bill’s rather detailed set of accountability instruments will, however, if American bureaucrats are not careful, paralyse the mobility of almost all of the $1.5 billion a year.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill calls for the production of at least three major, macro-level strategic documents that will double as budgeted work-plans, to be presented to relevant committees of the US parliament. The secretary of state must produce a Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report within 45 days of the bill’s passage, and a Security-Related Assistance Plan Report within 180 days of the bill’s passage. The US president must produce a Comprehensive Regional Strategy Report for submission to the relevant committees within 180 days of the passage of the bill. This last document, the regional strategy, seems to have been inspired by the president’s book titled “The Audacity of Hope”, seeking as it does, ways by which not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan and India too can be made more secure, through the Kerry-Lugar Bill assistance money.

Six months after the secretary of state’s Pakistan Assistance Strategy, Madam Secretary, or her predecessor, in concert with the secretary of defence, will be required to submit the first Semi-Annual Monitoring Report. Every six months thereafter, they will be required to produce one of these reports. If they ever make it to the public domain, these will be chart toppers at Amazon and on the New York Times’ best sellers’ lists.

The semi-annual reports will not only detail expenditure and achievements, but will also include an evaluation of efforts by the government of Pakistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, the Taliban”, “eliminate safe havens”, close “Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camps”, “cease all support for terrorist groups”, “prevent attacks into neighbouring countries”, and “close madressahs linked to the Taliban”.

It gets better. In addition to evaluating Pakistan’s performance along these lines, the report will also describe Pakistan’s anti-proliferation efforts, assess whether US assistance is enabling Pakistan to spend more on nukes, and finally, assess the extent of civilian government control over the military, including “oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders”.

It may be an understatement to suggest that these requisite documents will exact a heavy toll on an already-stretched US bureaucracy in Pakistan. What is more worrying is that each new diplomat will require several individuals to help protect his or her life. Those ‘protectors’ will not be from among the Islamabad Traffic Police. They will be drawn from a pool of private contractors, hired through the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contracting vehicle.

The WPPS, as anyone who has read Jeremy Scahill‘s exceptional book about Blackwater will know, is a bit of a problem. The hullabaloo over Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is not a conspiracy theory. It is a very legitimate concern about the use of mercenaries that are immune from the law. Blackwater may or may not be present in Pakistan — but its ilk, most definitely are. Among these, DynCorp’s presence here has already been verified, thanks to the now infamous Pakistani sub-contractor named Inter-Risk. Other mercenary companies, such as Triple Canopy, Xe, and Richard Armitage’s CACI will eventually be deployed in Pakistan because protecting an army of bureaucrats will require several armies of mercenaries.

Of course, a lot of this is a reflection of the Pakistani state’s failure to protect guests when they visit this country. Over the last eight years American diplomats have been bombed (Karachi and Islamabad), ambassadors have been killed (Czech Republic at the Marriott), and journalists and engineers beheaded on camera (Danny Pearl and Piotr Stanczak).

The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a bitter pill that Pakistan’s strong and resilient people must swallow because they have repeatedly been failed by both their military dictators and their civilian megalomaniacs. True proof of the very different planet that the Pakistani elite inhabit drips from Farahnaz Ispahani’s pen in a lionisation of her government published in the Huffington Post on Saturday, and this paper, just yesterday. Says Ms Ispahani, “Pakistan stands perhaps in the strongest diplomatic position in its sixty-two year history”. How’s that for a punch-line?


  1. sridhar

    Kerry-Lugar bill is a culmination of all the sins commited by your leadership and few institutions that are bent on running a foreign policy that has no connections with the ground realities prevailing in Pakistan.
    True, that Pakistani people deserve lot better for their sincere hard work, but the countries leadership has not taken Pakistani people’s efforts forward in a meaningful and sustainable manner. This bill is a hammer for all sorts of fallacies commited be it your’s afghanistan policy or kashmir policy. Pakistani people are fed with misinformation and have been misled by grandiose statements by their leaders.
    Hopefully this bill will help Pakistan move away from certain death to a promised land.

  2. Ihsanullah Bangash

    “merceneries that are immune from law”… How is that a new phenomenon in Pakistan? Are the intelligence sleuths not immune from law? How accountable is the police of this country?
    the elites of Pakistan are afraid of this new competition over which they will have no control of posting or transfer. As for people of Pakistan, they better stay away from all kinds of mercenaries… Rather God save them from all..

  3. Ihsanullah Bangash

    Before I am declared an infidel, I must mention the religious zealots and mercenaries of God….. They are not even accountable to God….

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  5. admin


    @sridhar Pakistan’s follies are Pakistan’s alone, but its not been alone in making stupendous errors of judgment in the region. The wonderful people of India too have been failed by narrow communal politics and cheap capitalist cronyism.

    @Aly Nope. No dollars-for-whizzie clauses in the Bill as far as I could understand it!

  6. sridhar

    @admin: I agree with you completely. The only benefit India has its economy and its size that can sustain its follies and help its leadership learn from their mistakes and give them enough time for corrections.
    In case of Pakistan, It has got everything going against it and the few institutions are still hell bent on old path.

    If Pakistan whole heartedly rethinks on the following, Then i believe things can change for good.
    a) Independent Kashmir is not going to help the region.
    b) America’s defeat in Afghanistan is not going to help the region.
    c) LeT, JeM, TTP are not going to help Pakistan.
    d) Investors are not going to come back until there is stable environment in Pakistan. Pakistan and Bangladesh can do lot of trade with India and can provide low cost cushion against rising costs in India.

    In India too, we have issues with rise of talibani type movements, naxalism but India has time on its side to suppress them. Economy has already solved naxalism issue and what we now have is last traces of it that can go away with time. Rise of Talibani type movements and goondaism of VHP, Bajarang dal is best addressed by defeat and or marginalization of BJP. We have Bollywood, growing general awareness, expatriates and good press that addresses some of these issues. Indian press may not have a soft corner for Pakistan, but they generally do a good job related to internal affairs of the country.

  7. Mr Zaidi,

    Thank you for the rather comprehensive analysis of the Kerry-Lugar bill. It was refreshing to read something informative about the bill for a change.

    One question though: what is the rationale for the argument that we need this bill to survive and must accept it as a reality and a ‘bitter pill to swallow’?

  8. admin


    @ Sohaib Thanks.

    I can’t see where I am making that argument. In fact, I have often suggested in the past, that Pakistan’s aid dependency-complex is a construction not aligned with the size and shape of the Pakistani economy.

    But I do say in the last para that Pakistanis “must swallow” because they elected this government. And this government has taken the clear, comprehensive, unadulterated and brazen approach of begging, as an instrument of foreign policy. Beggars cannot be choosers. The Pakistani people have to accept decisions that their leaders take. No?

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  11. Pradeep

    @Sridhar – “Economy has already solved naxalism” – You have got to be kidding me. If we don’t stop naxalism now, it is going to become our TTP so as to say.

    Quite frankly I believe that economy/capitalism is the root cause of the rise of Naxals. I no commie idealist but in our enthusiasm of celebrating our successes in the cities has caused us to completely ignore the countryside.


  12. Wasit

    Kerry Lugar Bill is good for poor and struggling Pakistanis who are suffering the effect of decades of looting by our leaders. This is their last hope.

    It is being opposed by the opposition parties because all kick backs are always pocketed by the ruling class and they are not ruling at the moment.

    It is opposed by jihadis because they fear that they will soon be unemployed and cut off from unaudited funds provided by security agencies.

    It is opposed by the generals because their unlimited budget will now for the first time be subject to public debate and scrutiny. It is significant that recently COAS General Kayani had a secret meeting with Mian Shahbaz Sharif. What was discussed and conspired? What are they hiding?

    This bill is our last chance. let us not blow it away. The conditionalities hurt our pride but they will force us in the right direction of becoming a responsible and peaceful member of the comity of nations. In any case, the responsibility for them lies with Musharraf who got 15 billion dollars since 9/11 and no one knows where that amount went. If there were no conditionalities, this 7.5 billion dollars would meet the same fate and we will be trotting the globe again with a begging bowl. This may be our last breathing space. Let us use this money wisely and follow the conditionalities faithfully.

  13. muzaffar mansoor

    Posted by: Muzaffar Mansoor on Oct 4, 2009
    It is seen by any and all that the USA’s interference into Pakistan is a serious threat to its sovereignty which is increasing on daily basis in the name of war against terrorism through so-called Kerry-Lugar bill assistance package. Pakistanis are invited to send a firm message to the USA to leave their country at once. The Commonwealth is also asked to be watchful of the trick. All Pakistanis must shun USA’s interference at once and reject so-called assistance at the cost of compromising their national sovereignty. LEAVE PAKISTAN MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS LET US TELL THE USA.

  14. Vijay D

    You were quoted in a US newspaper as saying “Sending money directly to the Pakistani government poses its own risks. If Pakistanis want to steal money, they’ll know how to do it in their own backyard,and you’ll never know.” That could not be more true given what the former president, General Musharraf has said on the record about US aid. What then are the Americans, or for that matter any other donor nation, to do? At the same time, many Pakistanis including some commenters on your blog,rightly or wrongly look upon aid from the US as a poisoned chalice. Seems quite hopeless anyway one slices it.

  15. maria talha

    just wanna ask…. doesn’t the elected parliament of the so called sovereign state of pakistan hold the right to have a comprehensive discussion upon the items, terms and conditions of the kerry lugar bill… the people of pakistan demand this. and this is absolutely just on their behalf for the parliamentarians are the represerntatives they elected. we dont want our future to be decided at the hands of “a few”

  16. excellent column… one of your best!

    I am not particularly convinced of the effectiveness of achieving democratization or internal political change via foreign aid, but I am glad that that days of the $10 billion CSF blank checks to the military are over, at least for now.

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  18. Ramin

    Seriously, would you Pakistanis rather live in a world where the Russians are the only super power? If yes, then maybe you should read about Stalin!

    Anyways, if Pakistan doesnt want aid, then I say all aid should be cut off. After all, what did the %15b since 9/11 do? As far as I know, poor people in Pakistan cant even afford to buy sugar or flour!

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  20. Dr Mukhtar

    I think every aid or loan that Pakistan has received from the Western powers is almost always less than the money of the bank loans that are relieved to the big fishes of Pakistan, or taken from another perspective, it has always been less than the amount of money stored in the Swiss banks by these big fishes.

  21. When americans say there is no concept of free lunch, why this rhetoric that kerry lugar bill does not possess pakistan’s interest.The thing which should must be realised and well understand is that why donor consider the interest of receipients and not their own… Alas, in which eutopia the nation and the leaders are living in??

  22. Albie

    Well this is not the first time united states giving Money to pakistan, Pakistan became Independant country back in 1947, and starting Financial Aid starting 1948 and ever since dependence on United States. If Kerry Lugar Bills has provisions where Congress likes to know where they spend Money, I am pakistani and I do not blame American Government to keep Eye on financial Aid, cause 97% percent pakistan is Muslim.84% Muslims in Pakistan Hate United States, those 84% are extremist has sympthy to Taliban and Alqueda elements.According to Hussain Haqani(Pakistani Ambassador) to United States. What pakistani people should do instead of Killing 1% christians who lives in pakistan, Wake Up smell the Coffee and accept the Truth Nobody trust your Government take the Aid and listen what United States tell you to do, after all Pakistan has no choice, No One likes to deal with pakistan . Unfortunately it’s True and people of pakistan should accept the truth. Instead of praying five times a day learn How to love one another.

  23. Jaded

    When people say that Pakistan needs this bill, on what basis do they base this claim on? The bill? The media?

    When you say that the people itself elected this government, indeed, they did. But does anyone realize what other choices we were left with to choose from? The problem with the government is that all the people in it are people from the upper class with alot of money. They have no realization of what actually goes on in the city apart from what they see in the news. They can’t relate to the general public. And it is the same with the American Government. They can’t judge the situation in Pakistan based on what they see.. untill they ACTUALLY experience it, they are blind to what’s really going on.

    Of the above people who comment on how people in Pakistan should accept the bill, how many of you have actually been to pakistan? How many of you have actually experienced what’s going on? When you say Muslims hate America, you’re wrong. Muslims hate the fact that Americans label all Muslims as terrorists. Even in North America, you have so many muslims everywhere. If we hated them, would we actually be there to start with? [and alot of the muslims in Canada have south asian roots]

    And besides, Pakistan has nuclear power. If they hated America so much, wouldnt they have directly thrown a nuke on them to end the story?

  24. This bill is not some form of charity that is being handed out to Pakistan. It is payment for a service that Pakistan is expected to perform to further the interests of the US in the region. Kerry and/or Lugar, even though representing uncle Sam in this endeavor, are not the mamay (uncles) of the Pakistani people, and hence do not have the best interest of Pakistanis in their caring hearts. They have devised a deal which is a payment for the blood and tears, the people of Pakistan are spilling for America’s strategic interests. Nothing less and nothing more.

  25. Umar

    Its amazing how beggers are happy to get funds from a country which itself is getting screwed due to recession. US cant feed their own people,how will it feed you?

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