US plans $1.4bn media aid for Pak

A Jamaat-i-Islami activist protesting at a rally in Karachi. The US Congress expects its aid package to counter strong anti-US sentiment. (AFP)

The Obama administration sent lawmakers this week a plan for $1.45 billion (Dh5.32bn) in aid for Pakistan this year, funding media campaigns to counter extremist views as well as water, energy and other projects.

The 2010 spending plan, obtained by Reuters, was sent to lawmakers as part of the US administration's obligation to consult Congress over the civilian aid package.

"It represents a rebalancing of the military and civilian assistance," Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew told Reuters of the package, part of a $7.5bn, five-year aid plan passed by Congress for Pakistan last year. There is strong anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and the hope is this new assistance will help ease that tension.

About $50 million is set aside for a "comprehensive communications strategy" to counter extremist views and strengthen Pakistani institutions and moderate voices, the report to Congress said.

"This effort will reduce the ability of Al Qaeda and other extremists to influence public perceptions and attitudes and support Pakistan's people and government as they establish a more secure, prosperous and lasting state," the report said. This would include a so-called rapid response team to monitor Pakistani and regional media and "swiftly correct inaccurate reporting," of which the US complains it is often a target.

The US has a difficult relationship with Pakistan and at the end of last year, Islamabad said US funding had slowed despite promises of a big injection of aid, which was more than $10bn in the past nine years.

 

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