AS I come to the end of my two-year tenure in Pakistan as USAID Mission Director, I am finding it very hard to say goodbye. I often say that in my 20-year career as a diplomat – from living in Haiti to Egypt to Bangladesh – I have found Pakistanis to be the most hospitable and friendliest people. It has been a privilege to get to know the people and diversity of this wonderful country – the farmers from Balochistan, the young primary school students in interior Sindh, and the hard working young men and women across the country. All of this made my two years in this country extremely rewarding.
For more than 60 years, the United States and Pakistan have worked together to forge a relationship that benefits the people of both countries. In 1947, the United States was one of the first countries to recognize an independent Pakistan and to extend considerable assistance for the establishment of key institutions. With US support, Pakistan completed many notable projects over the years, such as the Institute for Business Administration, the Lahore University for Management Sciences, the Indus Basin Project, the construction of the Mangla and Tarbela dams, and a variety of others.
I am proud to have played my part in continuing – and further strengthening – that legacy. I am particularly proud of USAID’s work to address two major challenges that Pakistan has been grappling with in recent years: energy and water resource management. Since 2011, nearly 33 million Pakistanis have benefitted from USAID’s efforts to add more megawatts to the national grid. In December 2016, I signed a landmark agreement on behalf of the United States Government to provide over 8.5 billion rupees for the construction of the Kurram Tangi Dam in North Waziristan. Through this partnership, more than 16,000 acres of agricultural land will be irrigated, and an additional 18 megawatts of electricity will be produced, enough to benefit an additional 100,000 Pakistanis. Earlier in 2016, the United States and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa completed the $72 million Gomal Zam Irrigation Project that provides irrigation for 191,000 acres in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan Districts. The investment will also increase business, trade, and employment opportunities for 30,000 households from one of the most under-served areas of the country.
During my time in Pakistan, we have seen expanded opportunities for cooperation with the private sector. At USAID, we are capitalising on this change by shifting our focus to both aid and investment, emphasising partnerships and innovative ways to support Pakistanis. We strove to develop a culture of partnerships with the private sector and philanthropists, and forged closer ties with federal, provincial, and district-level government institutions so that our efforts could be sustainable. In March 2017, the three private equity funds established under the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII), a USAID initiative to invest in Pakistan’s dynamic small and medium-sized businesses (SME), started making investments. We believe the SME sector can be a tremendous engine for employment and GDP growth in Pakistan for years to come. With the initial US investment and matching contributions from three Pakistani partner investment firms, PPII will make more than 15.6 billion Pakistani rupees in equity financing available to selected businesses and enable small and medium-sized enterprises to grow and thrive.
Similarly, during my time in Pakistan, USAID partnered with the Government of Sindh to construct and furnish 100 schools by leveraging investments from the private sector. Through this partnership, USAID is collaborating with Rotary International to establish new libraries and computer labs, with Intel to train students and teachers in information technology, with Telenor for mobile transfers of grants to school management committees, and with Pfizer to provide infirmary materials. USAID also supported the provincial Department of Education to link with private sector organizations to operate and manage public schools under the Sindh Public-Private Partnership Act 2010. This new model of governance involving the private sector will ensure quality and sustainability. I am glad that in two years we were able to achieve all this and more. Most importantly, we established a new model of development for the mission that will continue to advance the US-Pakistan relationship. Ultimately, public and private development partners must lead a nation to progress, determine priorities, and gradually become independent of the need for foreign assistance. This new development paradigm also underlines the strong economic and social resilience of Pakistanis. I believe that during my time in Pakistan, we have been able to develop a road map for the USAID mission to contribute towards that ultimate goal.
I have seen, again and again, that any change worth investing in is change that takes time. As I say “Khoda Hafez” to my staff at the Embassy and my Pakistani friends, I would like to assure you I will never forget the achievements of the partnership between Pakistan and the United States under my watch. To them, to my successor, and to Pakistan, I wish the very best of luck.
—The writer is outgoing Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Pakistan.