The Obama administration plans to spend nearly $50 million on Pakistani media this year to reverse anti-American sentiments and raise awareness of projects aimed at improving quality of life, confirms a Washington insider.
After the Kerry-Lugar Bill debacle, the Obama administration had struggled with the idea of ‘branding’ aid and many within the State department and the USAID had argued that identifying projects may backfire.
“By announcing that a school was built and is being maintained – partly because of the aid received from America – you can alienate people,” said someone who had proposed not ‘branding’ the aid.
The US Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke believes that a substantial amount of monies spent on media- especially private TV channels will reduce tension and may even bring Pakistan-US relations back on the right path.
Senator John Kerry, the main architect of Kerry-Lugar bill also supports the idea of claiming credit for all “the good work being done to improve infrastructure, energy and education,” said a source in Senator’s office.
Reuters today reported that the Obama administration has sent lawmakers a plan for funding water, energy and other projects. Report said the US intends to spend $1.45 billion of earmarked for the Kerry-Lugar bill in fiscal 2010.
The trust deficit had surged after a well intended aid package focused to uplift Pakistan’s civilian society was trashed by a section of Pakistani media. Interviews with diplomatic sources in Washington, D.C. and media coverage of the KLB debacle had demonstrated growing frustration of the Obama administration.
Although American officials publicly praise military operation in South Waziristan, in private they sing a different tune; their assessment of ”alignment” is rather pessimistic. Stories leaked to media consistently allege that al-Qaeda leadership is still enjoying safe haven in Pakistan.
Pakistan-U.S. relations have not been this tenuous before, and the Obama administration is frustrated with the outcome of the Kerry-Lugar bill. “No one had anticipated such negativity,” said an American official who did not want to be identified. “We thought Pakistanis [would] celebrate the passage of this bill. This is what we were told by representatives of Pakistani government.”
Pakistani government representatives from President Zardari [zardari] to Foreign Minister Qureshi and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani further down the chain had assured the Americans that Pakistanis would be jubilant; KLB was suppose to heal all wounds, rectify all wrongs and erase memories of the past from the consciousness of the masses.
The Obama administration has shared their plan to sponsor high impact projects and communicate the value of these projects using local media.
Voice of America, a radio and TV platform that speaks for the government of the US already has a tie-up with Geo TV and now they have aligned with Express TV as well.
The Obama administration plans to help Pakistan’s democratic government meet budget shortfalls and deliver services to a population increasingly angry about economic and security troubles. As the funding builds the capacity of the government to provide basic services, the US sponsored Pakistani media will raise awareness and a build a brand for America, our sources have confirmed.