The United States’s relationship with Pakistan has been long and complicated. Diplomatic relations were first established in 1947 and founded a mutually beneficial alliance against the U.S.S.R. and communism. More recently, this complicated relationship centers on anti-terrorism efforts, the war in Afghanistan, and maintaining a stable government in the region.
Indeed, recent U.S. support for Pakistan has been extensive. The United States has distributed over $2.4 billion since 2009. Even more money was authorized and appropriated in all of those years, to the tune of $11.6 billion. In 2014, the budget request for Pakistan is an additional $1.1 billion.
Recently, The New York Post published an excerpt from the book Blasphemy written by Asia Bibi. Mrs. Bibi is a practicing Christian in Pakistan, a nation that is 97 percent Muslim. Her crime was refusing to convert to Islam. On June 14, 2009, Mrs. Bibi went to work in a field picking berries:
The sun was beating down, and by midday it was like working in an oven. I was dripping with sweat and I could hardly think or move for the suffocating heat. In my mind, I could see the river beside my village. If only I could have jumped into that cool water!
But since the river was nowhere near, I freed myself from my bushes and walked over to the nearby well. Already I could sense the coolness rising up from the depths.
I pull up a bucketful of water and dip in the old metal cup resting on the side of the well. The cool water is all I can think of. I gulp it down and I feel better; I pull myself together.
Then I start to hear muttering. I pay no attention and fill the cup again, this time holding it out to a woman next to me who looks like she’s in pain. She smiles and reaches out . . . At exactly the moment Musarat (pokes her ferrety nose out from the bush, her eyes full of hate:
“Don’t drink that water, it’s haram!”
Musarat (her neighbor) addresses all the pickers, who have suddenly stopped work at the sound of the word “haram,” the Islamic term for anything forbidden by God.
The rest of the story is sadly predictable. Mrs. Bibi’s co-workers and neighbors spit on and beat her. Five days later an angry mob assembled, chanted “Death to the Christian," beat Mrs. Bibi again, and had her thrown into prison after she refused to convert.
How are these two facts related? Simply put, we should cut down the amount of foreign aid we send to Pakistan for as long as they allow persecution of any religious minority. The $1.7 billion in undistributed 2013 funds (according to the State Department) would be a good place to start, though this amount barely puts a dent in the nearly $23 billion we have committed to supplying.
Religious freedom and right of conscience are values that America has propagated since its inception. How can we continue to spend lavishly on a country that turns its back on such basic rights? What is the point of joining forces to fight terrorism when our ally continues to align with our enemies on questions of basic human dignity? Governments who stand idly by while people of faith are persecuted, beaten, and killed are not our friends. Pakistan goes beyond this by sanctioning such tragedy.