Australia will cease all bilateral aid to Pakistan

MELBOURNE: Australia would stop everything, including support for programs that help poor women and girls, as the funds were being redirected to meet new commitments in the Pacific, according to the latest report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT ).

The report entitled 'Performance report of the 2018-19 aid program on Pakistan' said that Pakistan's bilateral aid program will be reduced to 19 million Australian dollars in 2019-20 and will be completely eliminated during 2020-21.

However, aid to Pakistan will continue through DFAT's regionally and globally funded programs, including the Australia Awards scholarships, he added.

In this context, the aid program will focus on consolidating the achievements of Australia's 70-year history of development assistance to Pakistan. Our modest and continuous support footprint, which is based on funds from our regional and global programs, will focus on a small number of areas where Australia can make the biggest difference in Pakistan, the report said.

The key objective of Australia's assistance to Pakistan has been to help women and girls with a focus on education, greater access to quality reproductive health services and against gender-based violence.

The report said that Australia's development priorities had changed and that aid funding was being redirected to meet new commitments in the Pacific.

We have begun a responsible planning of the liquidation, focusing on consolidating the profits and ensuring the sustainability of the results. Australia will continue to provide assistance in Pakistan through regional and global programs, such as the Australia Awards.

We will focus on areas where Australia's technical expertise and policy experience can add the most value to address Pakistan's long-term development needs. This includes aid investments and political participation in gender equality, water resources management and humanitarian issues, he added.

Pakistan is one of the poorest countries in Asia and placed 150 of 178 nations in the most recent. United Nations Human Development Index, which classifies countries according to health, education and income.

Australia's overall foreign aid budget has been reduced by 27% in real terms since 2013 and now represents only 0.82% of federal government spending, a record low.

Australia will continue to work with Pakistan in areas of shared interest, including through trade and investment, community ties, defense cooperation, human rights and gender equality and regional security, said a spokesman for the foreign affairs department and trade said by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

The report described the security situation in Pakistan as volatile and said the tension between Pakistan and India over Kashmir that culminated in military exchanges in February 2019 was high.

There were reductions in violence in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, but terrorist activity increased in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, where several Australian-funded aid programs operate, he said.

Pakistan moved to the 'gray list' (FATF) in February 2018 and needs to show progress in its action plan to avoid a potentially harmful 'blacklist' in October 2019, he added.