The US governments recently approved a spending package for 2021 which contains $25 million allocated for gender and democracy programs in Pakistan; $15 million for democracy and $10 million for gender programs respectively.  

The US Congress passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill for its population, which is part of a larger $2.5 trillion spending bill, which combines $900 billion of coronavirus relief with $1.4 trillion to fund federal agencies and foreign aid funding.

It is not clear if this aid will be provided directly to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and civil projects in Pakistan or be provided to the federal government.

Screenshot from the spending bill detailing assistance to Pakistan.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump on Wednesday released a video message condemning the “wasteful” foreign spending and urged lawmakers to reconsider the spending bill.    

“This bill contains $85.5m for assistance to Cambodia, $134m to Burma, $1.3bn for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment, $25m for democracy and gender programmes in Pakistan, $505m to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama,” Donald Trump said.

Other conservative lawmakers also raised concerns over the large amount of foreign funding in a bill designed to help Americans.

If the US President refuses to sign the bill by Monday, or veto it, the US government will have to face another shutdown, as the bill also contains funding for federal agencies.

Impact on Pakistan

Sadaf Khan, the co-founder of Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), talking to The Correspondent said: “The fund itself is very significant, considering aid for human rights causes under the Trump administration has been tight; what is important now is how the funds are managed in Pakistan.”

However, she cautioned that the process of aid disbursement will have to go through government approval. “The effectiveness of the foreign aid may by affected by the regulatory process in Pakistan, which tends to be very stringent. It depends on what routes are taken.”

Elaborating on how the funds could be possibly used in the future, she said: “The funds will be further divided into priority areas; for example, gender can be divided into domestic violence, connectivity, equality at the workplace etc. Similarly, democracy will comprise various elements such as legislative scrutiny, transparency, freedom for expression, or media freedom. These priorities are usually set by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.”

“Once that happens, organisations like ours will determine what falls within their priority areas. There is usually a competitive process where we present our own designs and programs, and compete for the grants acccordingly,” she elaborated.


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