Kerry meets Gilani: US agrees to fund ‘visible’ projects in Pakistan
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD: In what is seen here as a major shift in its aid strategy for Pakistan, the United States has decided to fund large development projects to stem the tide of rising anti-Americanism and improve its image.
“Both sides will soon agree on identification of highly visible projects to be undertaken with the US assistance,” US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry told Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday.
According to a US embassy statement, Senator Kerry met political and military leaders and discussed with them Pakistan government’s priorities for the most effective and transparent implementation of United States assistance funds.
The United States has tripled its development assistance for Pakistan to bring about a change in the crisis-driven nature of ties between the two countries into one based on long-term engagement.
Pakistan had been calling upon the Obama administration in recent months to finance large-scale projects with bigger visibility, instead of many smaller ones which required a significant number of American experts and monitors on ground and caused suspicions among the public and also in the military and intelligence services about the large American presence in the country.
Additionally, Pakistan had been arguing that United States development plans had huge overhead expenses, consuming almost 50 per cent of the aid.
Pakistan wants US funding a number of big projects, including a 2000-3000 MW power plant; a liver transplant facility and modern hospitals and trauma centres.
Mr Kerry, during his meeting with Prime Minister Gilani, welcomed the government’s proposal for setting up medical facilities in militancy-hit areas and strengthening the energy sector for overcoming power shortages.
He agreed with Mr Gilani on the need for fast tracking the development process to sustain the progress achieved by Pakistan – against extremism and militancy.
Mr Kerry, who had arrived here from New Delhi, expressed Washington’s willingness to help the two countries revive the stalled multi-track Composite Dialogue.
Prime Minister Gilani offered to enhance intelligence sharing with India to avert attacks such as the Pune blast.
President Asif Ali Zardari during his meeting with Senator Kerry said Pakistan looked forward to close engagement with the United States on bilateral political track, including strategic dialogue.
Mr Zardari called for channelling United States development aid through the government in accordance with its priorities and programmes to ensure transparency, accountability and efficacy.