Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Expert: Tackle Pakistan poverty

By Tom Evans, CNN
  • Poverty and development likely among issues at U.S.-Pakistan talks next week
  • Clinton, Qureshi to meet in Washington
  • Pakistan officials: U.S. launches frequent drone attacks on Afghan-Pakistan border

(CNN) -- One week before top-level U.S.-Pakistani talks in Washington on security and aid, one of Pakistan's leading development experts said it's vital to tackle poverty in her country to fight terrorism.

"I personally think that addressing poverty, which is Pakistan's biggest problem today, is going to combat in some ways the issue of security that we face," Roshaneh Zafar, founder and president of the Kashf Foundation told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

"We worked with 1 million poor families across Pakistan, and we've seen what happens, the change that happens." She said even small increases in family incomes can transform society, because parents can then put their children in private schools.

"[By] putting in micro-finance, which is the most sustainable way of providing aid to low-income households, we are beginning to see a silent revolution take place both in terms of children going to school, their ability to actually transcend their social backgrounds and become professionals," she said.

Pakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi, a former adviser to the British Department for International Development, said he disagreed with the idea that poverty fuels terrorism.

"The evidence from a substantial body of work that's pre-9/11 as well as post-9/11 [suggests] the link between terrorism and poverty or terrorism and literacy is tenuous at best," he said.

"Now that's not to say that poverty shouldn't be solved. But poverty should be solved because it should be unacceptable to us as human beings."

Video: Al Qaeda leader killed?
Video: Face of Taliban justice

Poverty and development likely are to be among the key issues at next week's planned talks in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The United States is giving Pakistan $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid a year for the next five years as part of a long-term strategy to help stabilize Pakistan, which is fighting its own war against extremists and is used as a safe haven by Afghan Taliban insurgents and al Qaeda.

Pakistani officials say the United States also is launching frequent attacks from unmanned Predator drones against suspected terrorist targets in the lawless frontier areas of Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

Zaidi said there is deep suspicion in Pakistan about the aid the United States is sending. "It's seen as blood money for the losses of Pakistani lives, particularly through things like drone strikes, which have been targeting al Qaeda militants."

He also said the most important thing for U.S. policymakers and philanthropists to understand is that countries aren't built by nongovernmental organizations or by philanthropy, but by governments.

But Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, which invests in development projects in Pakistan and elsewhere, cited the example of the huge progress she said is being made in housing construction in Pakistan as a result of initiatives by nonprofit organizations.

"I think that's where we're going to start seeing real scale. And then there's the scale of the human imagination," she said.

"Then there's the scale of frameworks that start with trust and credibility that both the United States and the Pakistan government have as an opportunity to show that they're there, that they care and they can make things happen."