Foreign funding: A complex phenomenon
AN interesting history of foreign funding demands continuous vigilance and probably stringent regulations in certain areas.
Current wave of discussions on foreign funding to a political party attracted attention of masses.
A penny of foreign funding whether it is political, developmental or academic is unconceivable without an agenda.
On political front we witnessed both obvious and tacit foreign funded campaigns and programs for several political parties.
An analysis of international dynamics and our history of relations with other countries clearly indicate that every nation acted in their own interest and played their part in exploiting sentiments of masses through carefully designed funding programs.
Almost every political party from right, left and centre seems labelled as beneficiary of direct or indirect foreign funding and influence including those who snatched power without being in any political party.
Our partnership with international campaigns inside Afghanistan opened a huge corridor for other countries to openly fund political parties to toe their line which many times seemed appropriate-ate to policy makers of the time but in the long run those proved detrimental.
There is hardly any country, may be except one, in our friendship list that missed any opportunity to damage our sovereignty through their accomplices in the country for their own strategic national interests.
International recognitions, titles, awards and associated prize moneys all are part of specific design.
In today’s open and global community we certainly cannot put embargos on such in-stances.
However, we can surely develop a program to engage with such accomplished personalities and may be organizations that are being recognized internationally to brief them grater designs being part of such programs.
Historically we remained judgmental and disassociated with those who stayed little away from the mainstream and we intentionally or unintentionally started creating doubts about their thoughts and activities.
We need to expand our horizon to accommodate every thought which emerges in our society, we should give due attention, listen to them carefully, try to resolve their concerns to the utmost possibilities and publicise all such endeavours for the masses to determine appropriate dimensions.
It is all about acceptance at the grassroots level which provides breeding opportunities to ideas and thoughts.
Genuine engagements melted several movements in recent history, let people know about every thought which any faction of the society pursues but this awareness has to be through authentic and mainstream sources not from purposely built infrastructures for objective communications or kind of sponsored programs and personalities which pollute even straight realities.
Let the market forces determine appropriate course of events, but it can only happen when masses and these forces have access to all truths; partial information breeds confusion where actors with malicious intentions find space to implement their agenda.
We witnessed several events in the recent past from Iraq war to campaign is Afghanistan those initiated with the help of popular consensus and also terminated due to growing public opin-ion against these instances.
Now is the time where we cannot survive with narrow views about circumstances, we cannot hide realities from being public, we cannot mould opinions according to our desires, we can only engage with every thought, every viewpoint and every individual to find common grounds and to provide appropriate solutions for all stakeholders.
Academic funding in terms of scholarships and projects are never introduced without plans.
Although these programs are of great value for countries like Pakistan; beneficiaries get ac-cess to the latest knowledge, technology trends, evolving thoughts and groomed infrastructures, but still we need to understand deep-rooted agendas in these programs.
On the home-page of Fulbright program it is clearly mentioned that one of the objectives of the program is mutual understanding between the United States and partner nations, these understandings are tacitly about creating advocates for the US.
We are quite familiar with the role of certain graduates of Russian scholarship.
A report on the China Scholarship suggests, “Since the 2010s, US officials have voiced concerns that the Chinese government may attempt to influence or exploit Chinese students on study abroad programs in its quest for foreign technology.
Some Chinese student associations at US universities have spoken out about the Chinese government’s efforts to provide unwanted “guidance.
” However, in the first half of 2020, the US Department of Justice charged several Chinese students with committing visa fraud and acting as agents of the People’s Republic of China.
The extent to which the PRC government may attempt to influence Chinese students, by what means, and how to respond, remain the subjects of debate in the United States.
” Although this report is about Chinese students studying in the US, not about foreign students studying in China, however, it does highlight a grey area about academic funding.
I am personally advocate of sending our students and academicians to developed nations including China through available scholarship programs to attain latest knowledge, because historically such programs resulted in transfer of knowledge from developed to less developed nations.
But it doesn’t mean that we remain inattentive to this front.Our relevant bodies including HEC should have a well-designed program to listen to all beneficiaries of these programs and help them align their intellectual attainments for the development of Pakistan through strategic interventions.
Influence of development sector in developing countries through NGOs, big international charities, social movements and other international organizations is not a hidden fact for many of us.
But still we cannot undermine the importance of advocacy, lobbying, rehabilitation and development projects for less privileged segments of the society.
Environmental protection, education and awareness of rights, rule of law, freedom and inclusion are indeed important aspects for the development of the society.
However, incidences such as DNA sampling through an NGO do shake the trust on projects funded by the NGOs.
Government has already initiated several precautionary measures and generally now people are quite aware of role of NGOs and other such institutions, therefore, it is also important to provide space to those development sector players who really desire to contribute to the economic, cultural and social uplift of the nation.
There is a huge responsibility on political parties to remain transparent in terms of funding they receive especially from overseas.
It is probably true for all parties to collect fund from expatriates on a regular basis, which I think is not unlawful at all.
But political parties should remain vigilant to avoid any trap under this cover.
It is the responsibility of the state to channelize every funding extended to any party even being aligned with national policies, as happened frequently in the past, to avoid complications in the future.
Once international donors have direct access to any party in the country, then it becomes difficult even for the state to stop flow of funds.
Hidden funding or open acceptance of foreign support certainly needs strong attention of law enforcement agencies to stop external interventions.
We being multi ethnic and multi sectarian society conveniently provide opportunities to probably every plotter on this planet to pursue his/her designs.
Therefore it is required to promote rule of law, equal opportunity, equitable progress and the nationhood, to include every stakeholder of the society to reap the benefits of peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.
—The writer is Associate Professor Management Sciences, Head, Centre of Islamic Finance COMSATS University, Lahore Campus.