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Pakistan could top list of countries receiving bilateral aid from the UK

In the UK’s review of its future international aid giving (announced this week), Pakistan is one of 6 countries which scored highest in its need for assistance and the potential for aid to be best used.

Priority areas for programmes in the country are seen as education, health, governance and security, poverty, hunger and vulnerability, humanitarian aid and wealth creation. Over the next five years, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) expects to spend over 1.3 billion pounds in Pakistan, which would make it the largest country recipient of UK aid by 2015. However, the aid delivered will also depend on the introduction of  tax reforms and the tackling of corruption by the government of Pakistan.

The UK’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said that half of the aid to Pakistan will go towards education in the country. In the DFID report published to coincide with the announcement – ‘UK aid: Changing lives, delivering results in Pakistan, Spring 2011’ – Pakistan is said to be facing “an education emergency”, with more than 17 million children out of school. The report notes that the country is “way off track” from its Millennium Development Goal of working towards universal education for primary school children. The UK aid package over the next five years is expected to bring 4 million children into school, allow for the recruitment and training of an additional 90,000 teachers, supply over 6 million text books and enable the construction or rehabilitation of more than 43,000 classrooms.

Education is seen as the key to transforming Pakistan’s future, by boosting the economy and giving poor children the chance of a better future. Crucially, it is also seen as a way to “broaden outlooks”. This week, Navi Pillay, a United Nations human rights chief condemned the extremism which is threatening the country, following the assassination of a Christian government minister this week. This is the second recent killing of a top official who advocated the reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The human rights chief urged the Pakistan government to “confront the extremism which is poisoning Pakistani society”.

The DFID’s Spring report suggests that much of the violence in Pakistan can be traced to “grievances caused by poverty, injustice, poor or non-existent schooling and healthcare” as well as stemming from a lack of jobs, a situation which provides “a fertile breeding ground for…unrest and instability.” DFID’s increased aid is intended to help bring “peace, security and stability” to Pakistan.

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