Our Mystery Aid

More

Spencer Ackerman's been taking a look at how American aid gets delivered to Pakistan and it basically amounts to handing over billions of dollars of cash stuffed into garbage bags. More specifically, "the U.S. gives Musharraf's government about $200 million annually and his military $100 million monthly in the form of direct cash transfers." That's basically untraceable, unaccountable money. Over a billion a year goes direct to the Pakistani military in what CSIS's Rick Barton characterizes as "a sort of a handshake deal between militaries" in which we "we don't have a lot of record-keeping."

Keep that in mind, and then flip back to Joshua Hammer's recent Pakistan article for The Atlantic:

Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known analyst in Islamabad and the author of Military Inc.: Inside the Pakistani Military Economy, says that the armed forces are major players in real estate, agribusiness, and several other industries. The empire includes banks, cable-TV companies, insurance agencies, sugar refineries, private security firms, schools, airlines, cargo services, and textile factories. The Fauji Foundation, for instance, is a “welfare trust” that is run by the defense ministry and spans 15 business enterprises. It provides cushy jobs for hundreds of retired officers (many retire in their late 40s), pays few taxes, and channels profits into a fund that is intended to benefit retired military personnel. And it is just one of several giant military-run foundations and companies that were set up decades ago and have grown steadily ever since.

The military’s intrusion into commerce is quite visible in Islamabad, if you know what to look for. The logos of the Fauji Foundation and other military-run conglomerates appear on trucks, boxes, and buildings throughout the city. As Hood­bhoy told me, “They own gas companies. They make fertilizer, cement, soap, bottled water. They even make cereals, so when I have breakfast, I can’t get away from them.”

Basically, this money could be going anywhere for any purpose -- it's just a kind of giant bribe to Pakistan's military and political elite (and in a military dictatorship it's not such a key distinction) not something that goes to support particular programs.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In