Is Pakistan too fragile to exist without American help and aid?

Published: September 1, 2017

Anti-US protests have been held in different cities criticising Trump's statement on Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Donald Trump and his cronies must have wondered why Pakistan’s tribesmen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan staged an anti-US rally. The reason behind this rally taking place was to protest Trump’s remarks about Pakistan not “doing enough” in the war in Afghanistan.

Our people (particularly the tribesmen) have suffered immensely due to Trump’s policies, particularly the drone attacks which killed thousands of innocent people. Furthermore, they have suffered due to his failure to stop terrorists in Afghanistan from killing civilians. And to rub salt in our wounds, Trump asked India to help crush the Afghans!

In Pakistan, we know that Trump is not reasonable, but surely he can’t be ignorant enough to not know about India’s involvement in the war and its efforts to destabilise Pakistan. Hence, it is only in Trump’s own interest to withdraw from Afghanistan.

It seems that Trump is a victim of anti-Pakistan propaganda launched by Indians. Anti-Muslim Indians have always been convinced that Pakistan is on the brink of collapse, and would have disappeared from the map long ago if the US hadn’t provided it with aid. Nowadays, in addition to the Americans, the Chinese are also being blamed for helping us survive.

In numerous videos on the internet, Indians can be seen telling people not to buy Chinese toys for their children “because China is helping Pakistan and Pakistan is India’s enemy”.

In fact, at the time of the Partition, Jawaharlal Nehru predicted that the new country (Pakistan) would not be able to last more than six months. He fully expected that Muhammad Ali Jinnah would beg him to take Pakistan back into India. Moreover, after the breakup of Pakistan in 1971, Indian analysts were confident that in a matter of a year or so, what remained of Pakistan would disintegrate and four new countries would emerge.

But despite the loss of East Pakistan, we remained united and the Indians were disillusioned.

In his book ‘The Contractor’, Raymond Davis also says that “without America’s financial support, Pakistan’s economy would go into freefall”. Apparently, he too has been brainwashed to believe that Pakistan is too fragile to exist without American help. Perhaps that is one reason why Trump and his cronies blame Pakistan for his country’s failure to win the Afghan war.

After enduring much humiliation for many years now, with the Americans constantly asking us to “do more”, it is time to ask ourselves whether we really need US aid.

First of all, it should be understood that the aid given to poor countries by the US is not out of its love for them. Let’s say that a dam has to be built, and the US agrees to provide funds for it. The full amount of aid never reaches the country it is meant to help. A good chunk of it goes to American nationals for preparing feasibility reports, and engineering designs. American consultants and contractors have to be appointed for the project. So, the aid gets reduced to less than a quarter of the original sum. A small amount of the received figure is then paid to local sub-contractors who provide labour, while the major beneficiaries are the corrupt bureaucrats and others through whom the funds are channelled.

The same is true for the so-called “assistance” provided by the Americans. Under this assistance, scholarships are given to the children of our elite to study in American universities, while government officers are sent to the US for training. So far, such training has not yielded any results, as even a layman knows that conditions in the country have not improved.

In the past, the US has not only stopped giving us aid but has actually imposed sanctions intended to cripple us.

In 1963, when Pakistan announced that its airlines would commence commercial flights to China, President Lyndon B Johnson withheld a $4.30 million loan which was to be spent for upgrading our airports.

We managed to survive.

In 1990, under the Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment, President George Bush halted a $570 million fund because of suspicions that Pakistan was developing a nuclear weapon.

Again, we managed to survive.

In 1998, after Pakistan’s nuclear tests, the US imposed sanctions on Pakistan. Indian analysts were jubilant, thinking that this was a death blow for Pakistan. They fully expected mass hunger and deaths due to the shortage of food.

That did not happen, and we managed to survive.

So it is evident that the common Pakistani has not benefited from US aid, it is only the elite and the corrupt that get the fruit of this so-called “aid”. Pakistan has not been able to make any progress due to the fallout of the war in its neighbourhood. This should be made clear to the Americans.

And now to analyse how much US aid (about a billion dollars a year) “helps” our economy. Our budget is $45 billion, and what we get from the US is only about 2% of what we require. If the US decides to stop sending aid to Pakistan, it will have a very negligible effect on us, and this has been proved in the past. We shall have to tighten our belts, sure, but the government can take effective measures to bridge the gap. The feudal lords and the rich people who sit in our assemblies, who pay only nominal taxes, will have to agree to pay increased taxes on the goods they purchase (such as luxury cars and frequent trips around the world).

We have made mistakes in the past, like agreeing to help the US with its war in Afghanistan. In fact, when George Bush wanted to use our airspace and roads for the invasion of Afghanistan, our leaders agreed unconditionally. We could have asked for our external debt to be written off (considering that the Americans had earlier offered Turkey $26 billion to help them invade Iraq, an offer which the self-respecting Turks had refused). But now, our government can ask for compensation for those Pakistanis who have been killed in this war.

The US pays $100,000 to the family of every American killed while fighting to defend his or her country. We have lost about 80,000 people in a war which we never even wanted, a war that was never ours to begin with. So why can’t we ask the Americans to pay that amount ($8 billion) to the families of the people killed in this conflict? And if they don’t agree, we can ask them to pack up and leave, goodbye to their “aid”!

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Uzma Farooqui

    Good analysis Lakhani Sahib with good empirical evidence.Recommend

  • Zafars

    Pakistan is not. Recommend

  • Rahul

    Pakistan has been bailed out by the IMF 21 times since 1958, then there are the Saudi, Chinese and the US bailouts.

    Bailout number 22 will happen in 6 months if Pakistan plays nice with Uncle Sam.

    America has many ways it can tackle Pakistan,including cutoff in aid, sanctions, pressure through multilateral institutions, diplomatic isolation, travel ban, withholding of spare parts etc. Pakistan is not Iran or Cuba that it can withstand American demands for long.Recommend

  • gameplanner

    Your rants make me laugh.What US aid to pakistan has to do with India or call for Chinese goods by Indians ? Seems like you can not ‘get yours out’ with out crying on India.Forget about aid from US, Pakistan got billions of dollars from Saudi,Qatar and UAE . Don’t forget that World bank and IMF loans are funded by USA too.Without IMF/World bank and USA Aid,Pakistan will be bankrupt .If you don’t believe me,ask your finance ministerRecommend

  • Eddied

    Beggars can not be choosers…Recommend

  • Gratgy

    “We have lost about 80,000 people ”

    This number keeps changing, from 50,000 to 70,000 and sometimes up to 100,000. Probably including those who die of old age and diseaseRecommend

  • Janho

    First of all – for last 70 years – we were cut in half and not sure how many changes of dictators and democracies we have had.

    Yes we have survived – which is not a big accomplishment – when you see other Asian counties in the region.

    So go ahead and brag about our survival – while the rest of the world is chasing higher goals like going to the moon and mars as we sink in the hole deeper.Recommend

  • sadiq

    Dear Sir – whenever I travel to other countries I have to almost hide that I come from this country. A Pakistani identity increases suspicion and distrust. People do not want to even sit next to you on the bus. So please do not tell us how well we have done.Recommend

  • Vinit

    Engineering is not economics so don’t try it. There were many points to discuss on but the three points (i am an economics student)
    1. Asking rich to more taxes and waving off taxes on poor is the worst solution ever to eradicate poverty.
    2. Budget deficit is one of the biggest challenge to an economy so as you said 2% not a problem, makes me laugh.
    3. Pakistan should have made an agreement with USA to help the martyr’s families but they couldn’t because they were already receiving too much aid from them.

    And the biggest point which I don’t agree with is Indians hate Muslims. If it was so, India did not had 180 millions of muslims and the Hindu majority did not have allowed shariya laws which prevent Muslims from using contraceptives. Yes we do hate your foolish politicians and army which you all do too. But not Muslims. I have more number of muslim friends than Hindu.
    The main reason for hate for Muslims around the world is not common Muslims but the hardcore Mullas who don’t want change with time. For example, a mulla issues fatwa if a Muslim girl sings song but allow to use advanced guns which are products of western science which is somewhat prohibited in Quran. I do not want hurt your sentiments, just trying to reduce distrust between us caused by our politicians for their benefit.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “Is Pakistan too fragile to exist without American help and aid?”

    Short answer: YES.Recommend

  • wb

    “But despite the loss of East Pakistan, we remained united and the Indians were disillusioned.”
    You remained united? Recommend

  • wb

    “It seems that Trump is a victim of anti-Pakistan propaganda launched by Indians. Anti-Muslim Indians have always been convinced that Pakistan is on the brink of collapse”

    What about Afghanistan and Iran? Are they also anti-Muslim and they hate Pakistan because Pakistan is a Muslim country? What about Bangladesh? Are Bangladeshis anti-Muslims and they hate Pakistan because Pakistan is a Muslim country?

    And China which makes Mullahs dance in public, jails them for fasting in Ramadan, kills them, chokes their practices is Pro-Muslim and that’s why they support you?

  • numbersnumbers

    Would note that the author conveniently forgets that the Osama bin Laden entourage was found to be living comfortably in the biggest security compound close to PMA Abbottabad for near five years!
    Would note that the author conveniently forgets that the TTP terrorist types are responsible for almost all the death and suffering inflicted on Pakistan Recommend

  • wb

    Gist of the blog: Despite all sanctions, despite all propaganda by anti-Muslim Hindus, despite all conspiracies to break Pakistan, despite all efforts to isolate Pakistan, Pakistan today is a thriving nation, Pakistan is the land of milk and honey, Pakistanis have the best hospitals in the world that even Hindus visit Pakistan for treatment, Pakistan has the best universities in the world that even Chinese come and study in Pakistan.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Would note that author conveniently forgets that Pakistan’s Tax-to-GDP collection ratio is solely responsible for Pakistan’s never ending need for the Begging Bowl, since it is unthinkable that Pakistan’s supper rich Feudals and Elites would ever find themselves in the tax net!

  • vinsin

    If you are a Muslim then why dont you believe that only God gives life and takes life? Life is in the hand of God not drones, America, India, Israel etc. Those are not above God. India paid all the debts of Pakistani at the time of Independence/partition. Maybe next time you can write article about being grateful to India for that.

    In India nobody cares about Pakistan except terrorism emanating from her soil. Dont take aid from any country. USA is not forcing Pakistan to take aid. You should ask help from China a pro – Muslim country and demand land and water resources from them.

    Nehru said that so that Indian Muslims dont move to Pakistan and to help Pakistan with migration issue. Even if Pakistan beg India wont take it.

    If you have self respect than take money from China close to $80 Billion and thrown on USA and return all Aid since Independence and I bet Pakistan wont be doing that.

  • KlingOn2K

    Pakistan was doing much better than India until Zia came along. Pakistan’s per capita income was higher and it had a stable economy. Once the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, somebody in Pakistan had a bright idea. If a superpower can be made to retreat, packing off India should be a breeze. That is when the “strategic assets” philosophy got a boost. Little did the powers know that India had more experience in dealing with asymmetric warfare than the Soviets had.
    Apart from pin pricks, they did little and India continued to grow. Pakistan, on the other hand, stagnated and a large section of its population was being radicalized. Pakistan’s economy does not have the depth and strength to match India’s and nukes require a lot of money to build and protect.
    Today, Pakistan’s economy is completely dependent on China bailing it out. Foreign reserves are replenished through loans. It won’t be long before Pakistan cannot service its debt.Recommend

  • Test Test

    Pakistan has survived these many decades. Imagine what will happen if you dont get aid and loans…what will the jobless do? Instead of bravado, use logic…else I see more instability in PakistanRecommend

  • sParthiv

    Lol..the purpose of the article was that Pakistanis doesn’t need American money but the last para contradicts their own stand against US. ” we don’t need your money but hey we need your money.”Recommend

  • rama

    “In numerous videos on the internet, Indians can be seen telling people not to buy Chinese toys for their children “because China is helping Pakistan and Pakistan is India’s enemy””

    This is true , why China blocking UN security resolution on freezing LeJ accounts ?
    Is it fun ?

    India will not support TTP Recommend

  • rama

    “So it is evident that the common Pakistani has not benefited from US aid, it is only the elite and the corrupt that get the fruit of this so-called “aid”.”

    If common man in the street say this it is understandable , it is shame educated elite is saying this .

    If the common man has not benefited from US aid then is the Pakistan govt mismanagement and ineptness , don’t and blame othersRecommend

  • rama

    “The US pays $100,000 to the family of every American killed while fighting to defend his or her country”

    Even though human life is priceless , reality is different

    Average income of a American is 56000/year, Average income of Pakistan is less than 1000/year. At the max you can ask for 2000 .

    Also American govt is answerable to it people not people of Pakistan

  • NKAli

    Eid Mubarak to all.
    Yes, we can live without US or any aid. We love to quote but hate to practice, “Harkat main Barkat.”
    Pakistanis don’t like factual and truthful specifics because they have to roll up their sleeves, fold their cuffs and get down to hard work. So, the education acquired is lost. The Biradari system is another curse on us and the traditional jirgas. When we call ourselves Muslims, we have to accept Islamic laws, otherwise, remove the word “Islamic” and use only Republic of Pakistan.
    In seventy-years we love to call ourselves an atomic power (on crutches) and without aid and BoP support from WB, IMF, and ADB we will be blown to pieces. Because, people like Isaac Dar love to take loans to pay back loans. The better part of wisdom is to cut down on privileges of government officers and legislators and give the citizen a break. Also, the government’s operating expenses need a drastic shave in manifold departments. Salams

  • Vish

    In short Yes. Without US military aid, Saudi aid and Chinese support Pakistan will collapse. Of the 3 pillars the US pillar is the largest. Without US support even Saudi aid may not be so forthcoming. The Chinese will support Pakistan to some extent but extract from Pakistan, far more than what they give. So the answer to the author’s question is a resounding Yes.Recommend

  • chakrs

    Pakistan will become CPEC!Recommend

  • abhi

    It is time Pakistan vacate these areas and let people there live peacefully.Recommend

  • vasan

    This is one of the worst analysis. Lets dissect.
    1. The author claims that part of the aid is paid back to american consultants, designers etc. Unfortunately Pak doesnt have any reputable consultants or designers. The govt appointed local consultants surive, as in India, by greasing the palms of those in power. DO u expect Americans foot this bill. How about the value of services provided. Isnt that some form of aid because Pak doesnt pay for it.
    2. Who asked you to participate in Americas war project. Your govt provided cannon fodder for the war and your generals and ministers benefited financially. Why blame others.
    3. American govt has given money to your mercinary army to fight its war as you claim. If that is the case then your govt’s onus is to honor the dead soldiers, Why should someone else do it. If the money wasnt enought why did u agree to fight the war in the first place.
    Zia didnt do any careful analysis of the effect of indoctrinating pak population with jihadi mind set. Whose fault is it and why should America pay for it. They are as selfish, if not more when it comes to their safety, progress etc.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “Average income of Pakistan is less than 1000/year”. Wrong. The minimum salary in Pakistan is Rs.15,000 p.m. (US$ 145 per month, compared to US$ 100 per month in some parts of India).Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Don’t worry, Pakistani farmers don’t kill themselves (like farmers do in India). About 836 million hungry Indians today are trying to survive on less than half a dollar a day ( India needs the US to survive. We have less jobless people than Indians (your principal occupation nowadays is to kill beef-eaters who mostly happen to be Muslims).Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    ust because Kashmiris are Muslims, they are not allowed to exercise their right to self-determination, while the Christians of East Timor and South Sudan together with the Hindus of Junagadh state were allowed to get freedom through referendums.Recommend

  • Rohan

    There isn’t any,more like anti India stuff mixed with conspiracy theoriesRecommend

  • Zainab Khan

    The War on Terror was imposed by the U.S. to clean up its mess in the aftermath of Cold War, it was not our war but we fought to remain sovereign. The U.S. has already stabbed Pakistan in the back, so it is time for Pakistan to look for other opportunities and friends to fight the mess in the aftermath of WoT.Recommend

  • Limpkisar

    The billions of dollars in US military assistance to Pakistan are no different which in fact help sustain the defense economy in the US. Pakistan ends up buying US-made weapons and fighter jets from the very military assistance it receives from the US, and money it borrows from international lenders.

    the former head of UN operations in Iraq who resigned in February 2000 to protest against UN sanctions. He explained in an interview in Islamabad how aid agencies prefer spending aid money on brick and mortar, and not on developing human capital.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Sir, hiding behind (that) name does not disguise your mind.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Not everyone is paid the lowest minimum wage, especially in a country like Pakistan. This is obvious when your monthly per capita GDP
    PKR 14,254 ($135) is lower than your minimum salary Rs. 15,000 per month(?)

    However this is the typical Pakistani mindset, comparing you Average with the lowest common denominator in India. lol!Recommend