WASHINGTON TIMES — As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spar over security and foreign aid, those of us living in Pakistan wonder how we ended up in the rearview mirror of the debate. American taxpayers spend billions of dollars per year in Pakistan — a nuclear state with religious extremists baying at the door — and next door in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are ensconced. America’s money is meant to strengthen security infrastructure and democracy. And this money, I can tell you firsthand, is creating an effect that empowers extremists and breeds cynicism among the many who want a better future for our country.
Pakistan is a democracy, albeit a fragile one, that has lurched between coups and crises. Only the development of transparent, legitimate institutions accountable to the people can serve as a long-term bulwark against instability and extremism. But corruption remains pervasive in Pakistan. Graft. Rigged bids. Poor judicial and regulatory oversight. This is the kind of stuff that breeds seething disaffection with government and plays into the hands of religious extremists. The situation is so bad that U.S. taxpayers are actually pouring anti-corruption money into a corrupt Pakistani organization. You read that right.
Years ago, I served as a journalism fellow with Transparency International (TI), the well-known anti-corruption watchdog. Among its other work, TI produces a popular annual corruption index (Pakistan ranked number 117 out of 168 countries in 2015). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spends hundreds of millions of dollars promoting “development” and “good governance” in Pakistan, including multi-million dollar grants to Transparency International’s Pakistan (TIP) branch to operate an “anti-corruption hotline.” However, watchdogs continually flag the leadership of TIP for abuse of authority to intimidate and settle scores, as well as for its own financial and political benefit.
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