Why do we give aid to Pakistan?

HAILED as a hero in one country, jailed as a traitor in another, Shakeel Afridi has begun a 33-year sentence in one of Pakistan’s most notorious prisons.His crime? Helping the US to ­locate the Pakistan hideout of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Convicted of treason in a tribal court without judge or jury, Dr Afridi’s horrific fate is a shocking demonstration of how far Islamabad has turned its back on the West in the war on terror.

Outraged by this monstrous miscarriage of justice, the US has part-suspended aid to Pakistan. Britain, far from following suit, has actually doubled its donation to £350million annually.

By 2015 British taxpayers will have ­donated more than £1.4billion to ­Pakistan, making it the biggest single ­recipient of David Cameron’s generosity. The Department for International Development insists this money is being used to educate women, improve children’s health, strengthen democracy and create jobs.

Former cricketer and leading Pakistan opposition politician Imran Khan, on the other hand, says much of the aid will be ­siphoned off by corrupt officials.

If anyone needs proof of how murky the moral waters of Britain’s overseas aid ­programme have grown, look no further than Pakistan.

While British soldiers fight and die at the hands of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, ­Pakistan allows these jihadist operatives to move with impunity over the border. Nato’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has branded Pakistan a threat in our war on terror.

While Britain’s aid is linked to reforms in Islamabad and beyond, the “strings ­attached” are elastic enough to allow for the harbouring of Britain’s enemies.

Nor do the strings snap in the face of horrendous human rights abuses against Pakistan’s minority Christian population.Churches have been fire bombed, homes ransacked and the Asian Human Rights Commission says it is “common practice” in Pakistan for men to abduct girls from Christian families and gang-rape them.

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