Bill Approved Triples Nonmilitary Aid To Pakistan

Congress this week agreed to a $7.5 billion nonmilitary aid package to Pakistan over five years. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi talks to Renee Montagne about what that level of aid will mean for his country.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Whether or not they send more troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. government is going to be sending more dollars to Pakistan. Congress has agreed to triple development aid to Afghanistan's neighbor. Renee sat down last night with Pakistan's foreign minister in Los Angeles.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And that aid package was one of the things I asked him about - $7.5 billion over the next five years, aimed at some of the poorest areas of Pakistan, areas where the Taliban has grown increasingly strong. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had this to say about what those billions in American aid will mean for his country.

Shah MAHMOOD QURESHI (Foreign Minister, Pakistan): First of all, we appreciate what you've done, and we know you've done under compelling conditions, under difficult conditions because your economy is not at its best. So this is an expression of commitment to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan because better education, better health, improvement in physical infrastructure will help the people of Pakistan.

MONTAGNE: Well, the strategy here is obviously to spend billions helping Pakistan build up these areas so that - what, so that people won't turn to the Taliban?

Shah QURESHI: Obviously, they will have, you know, when there is an economic uplift, people will have jobs. People want alternate opportunities. The Taliban and the extremists have been extracting out of poverty and the misery of people in those areas. Obviously, when they're more enlightened, when they're more educated, then they would not join them.

MONTAGNE: This huge infusion of American aid could also generate some goodwill among Pakistanis, many of whom are suspicious of the U.S. and its intentions. Shah Mahmood Qureshi says that mistrust started long ago.

Shah QURESHI: They are aware of history, because they feel let down. They feel that you came into Afghanistan, and Pakistan helped you push the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

MONTAGNE: Back in the '80s.

Shah QURESHI: Yes, but you left. You abandoned us.

INSKEEP: That's Pakistan's foreign minister speaking with Renee. And we're not going to abandon this conversation. It continues on Monday. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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