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US worker's abduction in Lahore highlights risks for US aid efforts in Pakistan

August 14, 2011 - Lahore

The abduction of Warren Weinstein, an American working on a US government-funded aid project in Pakistan, underscores the risks and complications involved for American contractors trying to implement US aid work in the country.

Armed gunmen kidnapped the American development consultant from his home in Lahore early Saturday, highlighting the difficulty of US aid efforts in Pakistan, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

"For me it is very shocking. "He did a lot of good work for this country," said Sajid Hassan, a businessman who has worked with Weinstein on dairy projects.

Weinstein helped import dairy chillers to boost the productivity of Pakistan's rural farms, resulting in 63 million dollars in new investment to Pakistan, at least 2,150 new jobs, and a 25 percent boost in producer productivity, according to the website of the company, J.E. Austin Associates, Inc.

"He helped the university in the establishment of dairy facilities, negotiating with colleagues in the Netherlands," said Dr. Muhammad Abdullah, chair of livestock at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore. "We had quite a professional interaction with him."

Weinstein's company also worked on helping small businesses in the gem and marble trade in the lower districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)- a base for several militant groups like the Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda, the report said.

"When you have foreign contractors, even NGOs, coming in, they find it much more difficult" to operate than local groups, says Shandana Khan, head of the Rural Support Programme Network, a Pakistani nongovernmental organization.

"We are finding now in [some areas] we have to be very careful, and if we are having these issues, you can imagine [what US groups go through]," she pointed out.

Some foreign developers have pulled back from the regions along the Afghan border to safer cities like Islamabad, she said, adding: "And now this is Lahore - that's quite serious."

As it becomes harder to dispatch people on site, the monitoring of projects suffers. The US has pledged some 7.5 billion dollars in civilian aid to Pakistan over a five-year period in a bid to stem militancy and improve relations with the nuclear-armed state.


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