American development assistance to Pakistan painful dissillusioning: a personal essay.

Author:Jones, Garth N.


During the decades of the 1960s and 1970s I was an active participant in a great noble cause. Massive hunger moving into famine condition was put to rest. Millions upon millions of lives were preserved along with food security advanced for the next three or so decades.

In the initial decade of this humanitarian and development undertaking one out of every fifteen Pakistanis enjoyed full stomachs because of U.S. public Law 480 Food Aid. American generosity and technical know-how brought to the Indian subcontinent food security as never before existed. Pakistan particularly reaped great benefit from American intervention--(a) resolving first the issue of Indus river water between India and Pakistan (1960) followed by a wholesale renovation of the Indus irrigation complex, (b) massive importation of food grains mainly wheat and rice but some corn under Public Law 480, and (c) the introduction of the Green Revolution (early 1960s). An effective Family Planning Program was launched but after five or so years abandoned. The ancient scourge of famine was put aside, an accomplishment the British Indian Raj was never able to accomplish although tried.

What has been the consequence? Massive Pakistani ingratitude. I find this abrasive attitude a painful disillusioning experience where honorable intent to do good resulted in bad feelings. In this personal essay I seek the whys? I equally find troubling that the ghost of Malthus still hovers over Pakistani landscape. Its demographic data reads harsh with inter-generational exponential growth. Pakistanis in sizeable numbers are again becoming hungry. As a young US/AID foreign service officer, I projected forty years food security. Just possibly the "Four Horsemen" are returning. Whither goest Pakistan?


In necessasariis, unitas, In dubus, libertas; in omnibus, caritas "In things essential, unity; doubtful, liberty; in all things, charity"

Rupertus Meldenui (1)

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right ..."

Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865 (2)

"... feed them also, and lift them up ...."

Psalms 28:9 King James Version

It was presumed not to happen that way. Nor was it ever conceived that it would take a different, if not a diabolical, form. In its traditional doctrine America was engaged in doing "good works." Humanity should not unduly suffer. At a great cost in resource and human life America had destroyed two tyrannical powers, Germany and Japan. In reconciliation the American people in charity and good faith gave as much money in restoring their former enemies as they spent in destroying them. In collective will they triumph over a terrible evil, quelling the proverbial four horsemen as found in biblical Revelations 6:1-8. Yet world peace and good will would soon take a new testing in the ushering-in of the Cold War. This global circumstance was acerbated by large regions plagued with hunger bordering on famine. Drought along with excessive population growth, an ancient dynamic, was tragically at work. America with its highly productive agriculture and superior organizational means was called to save from starvation masses of people's lives. The American nation answered this call for humanity which lasted for over two decades give or take from the late 1950s to the end of the 1970s.

During these years from late 1950s to mid 1980s I invested much of my professional life in serving this humanitarian response. I entered into it with innocent optimism along with many other kindred Americans. I began as an idealistic Cold Warrior but soon became a hardened realist. Of the two countries where I spent the majority of my time, first Indonesia and then Pakistan, I studied diligently their individual histories. In recent time my once joyful illusions have become painful disillusionings, much more so for Pakistan than Indonesia. In my assessment of Indonesian histories I found hope put to success. Its founders understood well the propositions necessary for building a modern nation-state. Such was not the case for Pakistan which now constitutes much of my dissillusionings and giving credence to my Jones law--"Do good, get bad." (3) For many years the relationships between the United States and Pakistan have been stressful. Anti-American feelings have steadily mounted. (4) I first became aware of these feelings in 1979 while attending as an invitee to an international conference on providing aid to the "poorest of the poor" held in Peshawar sponsored by the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development. I was surprised about the anti-American feelings expressed at the Conference. I deemed this to be a result of the recent take-over of the government by General Zia-ul-Haq along with the Iranian revolution where the islamic clerics overthrew the Shah. I should have read the 1979 situation better. Verbal anger expressed to me by several of the Pakistani participants as to my role in installing an IBM 360 computer for census taking but misused by the military Generals as an instrument in processing data against individuals loyal to the past Zulfikar Ali-Bhuto regime should have alerted me as to deep anti-American resentment. Census data in the early 1960s was vital information in the determination of the size of US wheat imports (grants) to Pakistan in alleviating massive hunger. The amount of periodic tonnage of wheat and rice to be allocated to Pakistan rested upon my staff's statistical findings which were considered to be top secret. The computer was also scheduled to be used as a means to replace an archaic financial system notorious for making possible sizeable graft and corruption. On this score the intent met with failure. Pakistani officials had no interest in reducing the incidence of corruption particularly as to that financial aid provided by the U.S. government. (5) Corruption then as well as today is endemic in Pakistani life and culture.

My initiated accounting and budgeting reform project strongly endorsed by the World Bank and several high level Pakistani Financial and Accounts Cadre civil servants was doomed from its very inception. Nevertheless, the Pakistani government got an up-to-date computer and data process of technology which was strongly desired by high ranking officials, especially the ruling Generals. Basically, 1 provided the technology and management skills to enhance corruption as well as to support an authoritarian regime. This was a disillusioning experience which incidentally I was cognizant as to its possibilities. Nevertheless I placed high level technology in the hands of Mafia-like crooks. (6)

As of winter 2013, fewer than 12 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States. Sixty percent or higher consider the United States more of an enemy than as a friend. (7) Pakistan is supposedly allied with the US in fighting terrorism, yet it provided safe haven to America's greatest enemy and terrorist Osama--bin-Laden.

What has been gained of the billions of U.S. dollars over the last five decades given to Pakistan? Here I am particularly disillusioned about the consequences of the once massive famine relief program. There has been little or no show of gratitude. Once I could walk with some security on Pakistani streets, including the Northwest Frontier province. Not so now. Even in Lahore home of Punjab University where 1 spent considerable time I could not walk on the campus with a feeling of safety.

Over the millennia massive famines on the Indian subcontinent have been commonplace. Within the last three hundred years from 1630 to 1944 twelve catastrophic famines occurred (1630, 1769-1770, 1790-1793, 1803-1804, 1837-1838, 1866-1870, 1869-1870, 1873, 1876-1878, 1896-1897, 1988-1900, and 1943-1944) with deaths for each ranging anywhere from 1.25 to 5 million people, (8) During the best of circumstance hunger and malnutrition has prevailed. With American humanitarian aid and development assistance this terrible intergenerational past was eliminated. American zeal and know-how changed the course of subcontinent history. Masses of people have full stomachs now going into five decades. This was made possible by three remarkable American intervention/innovations.

Now speaking largely about Pakistan and not the Indian subcontinent --first was massive importation of relief in the form of food stuffs, mainly wheat and rice. Which was accomplished under U.S. Public Law 480. Second was the massive renovation of the Indus basin irrigation system. Third was the American technological know-how in enhancement of the growth/production of grain crops, mainly wheat and rice, known as the "Green Revolution." These three factors came together mainly under the sponsorship of the United" States Agency for International Development (US/AID).

Public Law 480 initiative began in 1947 when Pakistan was on the verge of mass famine. For some three decades 1954 to 1984 in the neighborhood of one out of every fifteen Pakistanis had at least one full meal a day because of the generosity of US food aid. The United States effort to avoid world-wide famine required assembling more cargo ships than those employed in the 1944 D day operation. Pakistan was one of the top five recipients of Public Law 480 aid receiving over some decade and half an average of some 71 million dollars per year. (9) This aid was critical to the other development programs being carried out in Pakistan.

When I was Chief of the US/AID Public Administration Division (1975-1979), I was always under intense pressure to determine Pakistan's annual yield of wheat and rice along with that of population growth. Pakistan's officials always sought a higher amount of grain importation than US/AID could allocate. During this time the global demand for Public Law 480 grain was extremely high. World-wide was facing intense food shortages. Some authorities stated that at times only two months supply of...

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