Previous NWFP government was better informed — Dr. Samia

By Rana Fawad

WASHINGTON: The previous provincial government in the NWFP (North-West-Frontier-Province) was conservative but its members had more knowledge and awareness about social services needed in their areas.

P1000673This was commented by Pakistan Scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Dr. Samia Altaf, while responding to a question at an event “Aid Effectiveness in Pakistan: Case Study of the Health and Population Sector” under the aegis of the WWICS on Wednesday.

Introducing the speaker, Asia Program Director Robert M. Hathaway told the audience about Dr. Samia Altaf was the Wilson Center’s 2007-08 Pakistan Scholar. In her career she had contributed to the management and coordination of complex health delivery systems for low-income populations.

She was acting director and later on senior advisor with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Islamabad before she joined the Wilson Center in Quote_Samia_WCWashington. She also had the opportunity to work for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as a primary health care program officer.

Moreover, she provided consultancy to international aid agencies. On the academic side, Dr. Altaf has served on the faculty at Pakistan’s Aga Khan University Medical College.

During Question and Answer session, Dr. Samia Altaf agreed with the Agha Khan Foundation official that the political stability was important in carrying out


She pointed out that it is interesting to note that the government of mullahs in the NWFP was very conservative but it was stable for five years whereas its representatives were very knowledgeable as compared to other provinces.

She told the audience that though their female representatives were veiled from head to toe and you could only see their eyes while talking to them, they had far better understanding and information about the social services needed in their respective areas.

Propounding her suggestions and recommendations regarding aid in Pakistan, Dr. Altaf commented that the future projects in Pakistan should incorporate the local perspective in its design. She was of the view that the current methodology was outmoded and did not pay attention to the requirements at the field level of projects.

She regretted that the consumers of the aid, people, have no knowledge that it was being done on their behalf and added that in Washington D.C., the information is placed in the community in a language or languages which they could understand before the project is launched. She suggested that the target audience of a project in Pakistan should also be provided with
sufficient information about the activity.

Analyzing the current situation of foreign aid and it’s use in Pakistan, Dr. Samia Altaf illustrated that there were five to six permanent actors like Government of Pakistan, donors, sub-contractors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc.,
that follow a script to play their roles.

She remarked that if the script is changed according to the modern day requirements, those actors could do a better job. Plus, a component of incentives for them should be added to projects.

Quote_Samia02_WCReferring to the growth of NGOs in Pakistan, she mentioned that NGOs have sprouted like flowers because there is money to be spent and many of them do a very good job.

Highlighting another factor, she regretted that the government officials take leave from their official duty and become consultants for certain projects.

Commenting on the notion that donors agencies try to push certain agenda through their aid packages, Dr. Samia Altaf said donors always had certain tasks to accomplish in helping out a country. She added that if a country thought the aid was tied to some other things it could always be rejected.

She informed the audience that once the Indonesian officials faced a similar situation and they refused to take the World Bank aid.