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American worker's abduction in Pak may complicate US civilian aid disbursement efforts

August 14, 2011 - Washington

The abduction of an American working on a US government-funded aid project in Pakistan is likely to further complicate efforts to disburse civilian aid from Washington to Islamabad.

Witnesses said that possibly two gunmen burst into the American citizen's house in the eastern city of Lahore at around 3 a.m. on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal quoted Lahore police chief Malik Ahmed Raza Tahir, as saying.

US embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez named the man as Warren Weinstein.

The website of J.E. Austen Associates Inc., an Arlington, Virginia-based aid contractor, names a Warren Weinstein as head of party for the group on the Pakistan Initiative for Strategic Development and Competitiveness, a Pakistan-based aid program funded by the US government.

The attack, coming after the Raymond Davis double murder case, is also likely to further raise security concerns for Americans operating in Pakistan, the report said.

Davis, a contractor for the US' Central Intelligence Agency, had said that the two men whom he shot dead were trying to rob him. He was arrested and later released following high-level public protests from US officials, including President Barack Obama.

Aid workers have been targeted before, slowing the ability of the US government to disburse civilian aid in Pakistan, part of a major attempt to stabilise the country and help it combat Islamist militancy, the report said.

The security concerns have made it difficult for the US to disburse money. In 2009, US Congress passed a bill to give Pakistan 1.5 billion dollars annually in civilian aid, but only a fraction of that money has actually been given to the nation.

In the last US fiscal year, which ended September 30, the US government spent only about two-thirds of the money appropriated by Congress for that period, the report said.

Since 2009, the US government has been cutting back on its use of foreign aid contractors, in part because of the security problems, it added.

US aid officials are planning to hand more money to Pakistan's government and local non-government organizations, who they feel can operate more successfully in unstable areas, but US contractors still handle millions of dollars in funds for projects that predate these changes, the report said.

Concerns about corruption in Pakistani institutions is also slowing disbursements as the US is carrying out exhaustive pre-audits of any Pakistan ministry or non-government group that is receiving cash, it added.


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