A committee of British MP’s has called for a reduction in aid to Pakistan unless there is “clear evidence” that authorities in the country take adequate steps to cut down on Islamic extremism.
Pakistan is set to receive nearly half a billion pounds in aid in 2014/15, making it the largest recipient of UK bilateral aid in the world.
But the cross-party commons committee on international development said some of that funding should be diverted to poorer countries because Pakistan “has failed to adequately mobilise the substantial resources of the country to help its poor”.
“It is unlikely that expenditure would be so high if the country were not having to confront Islamic extremism,” the committee added.
The £446 million in aid Pakistan will receive this year is part of a staggering £1.17 billion aid package the country will receive between 2011 and 2015. Annual spending has more than doubled this year from last year’s figure of £215 million.
In its report, the committee said: “The budget can only be justified if there is clear evidence that DfID (Department for International Development) support is effective in reducing the extremist threat.
“If not, we recommend that DfID consider reducing spending in Pakistan and increasing it in low income countries.”
The committee has also said that increases in aid should be conditional on Pakistan’s leaders improved tax collection whilst also paying their “fair share” of taxes.
A DFID spokesman said: “Our investment in overseas development, including in Pakistan, creates a safer and more prosperous world for the UK.
“Tackling poverty in the world’s poorest places can mean tackling the root causes of global problems such as terrorism, which matter to us here in Britain. Education is vital to transforming Pakistan’s future and is where a significant proportion of our funds are directed.
Aid to Pakistan was “firmly in the UK’s national interest”, the spokesman added, given the large Pakistani immigrant community in the UK and improving trade between the two nations.
The committee’s report comes the same day as rights group Amnesty International said journalists in Pakistan live under the ever-present threat of violence, not only from Islamic extremists but government institutions such as Pakistan’s infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) service.
In a report titled “A Bullet Has Been Chosen For You: Attacks on Journalists in Pakistan”, Amnesty said the Pakistani government has almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media personnel.
Amnesty has documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in Pakistan in response to their work since the restoration of democratic rule in 2008. The perpetrators have been brought to justice in just one of those cases.
“Pakistan’s media community is effectively under siege.
“Journalists, in particular those covering national security issues or human rights, are targeted from all sides in a disturbing pattern of abuses carried out to silence their reporting,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, David Griffiths
“The constant threat puts journalists in an impossible position, where virtually any sensitive story leaves them at risk of violence from one side or another.”