The £650m Apology: Forget Our Ailing Education System, That’s What Britain’s Giving to Pakistani Schools to Make Amends for Our Imperial Past
Tim Shipman, Daily Mail (London), April 6, 2011
David Cameron vowed to hand hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money plus vital military secrets to Pakistan yesterday to make amends for offending the Muslim nation last year.
The Prime Minister pledged to invest £650million in Pakistani schools at a time when the education budget at home is being cut.
Britain is also to give highly sensitive military technology to combat roadside bombs to the Pakistani security services, which are widely blamed for funding and arming the Taliban.
In a huge gamble with the lives of British troops in Afghanistan, Mr Cameron agreed to spend millions more on a centre of excellence for the country’s soldiers and spies near Peshawar, a hotbed of militancy.
The gesture came after Mr Cameron sparked a diplomatic rift last year when he accused the country of ‘looking both ways’ on terrorism.
The technology deal sparked fears that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, would hand details to the Taliban, enabling them to build more effective improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The huge cash injection for schools by the Department for International Development will make Pakistan the UK’s biggest recipient of overseas aid.
It is designed to get four million children into the classroom–17million currently get no schooling. Pakistan spends just 1.5 per cent of its national income on schools but is placing billion-pound orders for six Chinese submarines and 36 fighter aircraft.
The UK will have no control of the curriculum in schools receiving funding, meaning taxpayers could see their money pumped into madrassas peddling extremism.
Mr Cameron defended the payments, saying it was ‘in our interest’ to help Pakistan.
He said: ‘If Pakistan is a success we’ll have a good friend to trade and invest and deal with.
‘If we fail we’ll have all the problems of migration, of extremism, problems that we don’t want to see. So it’s in our interest that Pakistan succeeds.’
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said he believed a ‘root cause’ of terrorism was illiteracy.
But Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘Particularly at the moment when we’ve got no money, there’s absolutely no justification for increasing the amounts that we give to other countries.
‘That is especially the case with countries that can afford to spend billions on defence. If they can afford submarines they can afford to educate their own people.
‘We need to concern ourselves with our own schools because countries around the world are overtaking us in educational attainment.’
In a speech to university students, Mr Cameron vowed to get over the ‘tensions’ sparked by his comments last year and create a ‘new start’ in relations with Pakistan.
But he also said Pakistan had to raise taxes and stamp out corruption to justify British generosity. ‘Understandably, the British people want to know every penny we spend is going to the right places.
‘I need to convince them that it is. But my job is made more difficult when people in Britain look at Pakistan, a country that receives millions of pounds of our aid money, and see weaknesses in terms of government capacity and waste.’
Mr Cameron, who was accompanied on his one-day visit by Tory party chairman Baroness Warsi, who is of Pakistani origin, ducked questions about whether he could guarantee that the ISI will not hand the anti-IED technology to the Taliban.
The £650million investment for Pakistan schools will come out of the existing aid budget.
The reputation of Britain’s international aid programme is at risk because of lax controls to prevent fraud and corruption, the National Audit Office warned last night.
It said the Department for International Development was doing too little to prevent taxpayers’ money being siphoned off by corrupt officials in deprived countries.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell insisted that weaknesses in the systems set up by Labour had been addressed.
PM Blames British Empire for ‘Many of the World’s Problems’
David Cameron sparked a backlash last night after telling a Pakistani audience that Britain is responsible for ‘many’ of the world’s problems.
The Prime Minister sought to blame the British Empire for the situation in Kashmir which has been a running sore in Pakistan’s relations with India since partition in 1947.
But he laid himself open to the charge of running down Britain on an overseas trip.
At a university in Islamabad, the Prime Minister was asked how Britain could help end the row over Kashmir.
He replied: ‘I don’t want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world’s problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.’
His gaffe could lay Britain open to legal action by relatives of those killed in Kashmir or other conflicts sparked by the end of empire.
Mr Cameron’s claim is not even accurate about the fate of Kashmir, which has been the subject of three major wars between India and Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1999.
The disputed province, which has a predominantly Muslim population, would probably have joined Pakistan when it broke away from India had it not been for the intervention of the state’s Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh, who insisted on remaining with India.
Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance, said yesterday: ‘It’s a valid historical point that some problems stem from British foreign policy in the 19th and 20th Centuries, but should we feel guilty about that? I fail to see why we should.
‘Some of these problems came about because these countries decided they did not want to be part of the British empire. They wanted independence, they got it, they should sort out their problems instead of looking to us.’
A No 10 official said: ‘Sometimes a bit of humility goes a long way.’