June 6th, 2012
03:50 AM GMT
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(CNN) – No more "sunny days sweeping the clouds away" in Pakistan as its version of ‘”Sesame Street” gets its funding cut due to fraud charges, according to Reuters.

The United States has withdrawn funding for the Pakistani version of the American children’s television series known for its educational content and colorful puppets.  The U.S. Agency for International Aid received reports of corruption charges on the production company, Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, through an anti-fraud hotline, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Exact details of the graft weren’t provided.

The show, which began airing six months ago, features Elmo with a cast of local characters. The funding cut comes just six weeks after the U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter visited the set of “Sim Sim Hamara,” the Pakistani name for the series, “to reaffirm the U.S. Government’s commitment to children’s education in Pakistan,” according to a USAID press release.

The U.S. had originally allocated $20 million to produce the show and $6.7 million of this has already been spent, according to press agency reports.

According to reports from Pakistan Today, the money was used to pay off Rafi Peer’s debts. The funding was also used to award lucrative salaries to family members, many of whom worked in the company.

However, the Lahore-based production company denies these claims. The chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of the family members running the organization, Faizaan Peerzada said the U.S. had already ended their participation after providing $10 million because of lack of additional available funds.

In a statement sent to the Associated Press, the group said, “Rafi Peer is proud of its association with the project and of the quality of children’s educational television programming created within Pakistan as a result.”

Rafi Peer plan to seek other sources of funding to continue producing the local version of “Sesame Street.”

The show kicked off last fall with the goals of promoting ethnic tolerance and gender equality. The production company made 26 episodes, just one third of the original order.

It’s the second time this year that the Muppets of the foreign version of “Sesame Street” have run into trouble. The U.S. Congress froze funding in October for the Palestinian version called “Sharaa Simsim” in Arabic, part of $200 million in cuts after the Palestinian appeal to the United Nations for statehood, which the U.S. opposed.

More recently, “Sesame Street” was also in the news when a documentary on Al-Jazeera claimed that a decade ago, U.S. forces used music from the children’s show to break in inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Sesame Street shows and merchandise are part of a huge global brand. The show is broadcast in 145 countries, including Afghanistan, Chad and Sudan, according to the Sesame Street Workshop. An Abu Dhabi company last month announced plans to co-produce the show in Arabic there, according to Abu Dhabi’s the National newspaper.

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. freddie nerk

    Not surprising-Pakistan is one big corrupt S#$% whole. How we can continue to pour money into this dump is beyond any sensible person.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  2. Feroze

    @freddie nerk when a organization like US AID gives funds to NGO's etc there is suppose to be oversight on their part! To just blame the Rafi Peer theater group is not fair and a ripoff like this dosent occur without the connivance of people from USAID being involved to some degree and benefiting too. By the way its not only in Pakistan that such things happen, which dosent mean its right by any stretch of the imagination but we need to stop constantly bashing pakistan a country of 180 million because a fraction does this sort of thing and do something positive to make a change!

    June 6, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  3. wasso

    @ Feroze Time and time again, corruption rears its ugly face in Pakistan. Its an epidemic from top to bottom and sideways.
    Freddie Nerk is just playing the law of averages and that's a pretty safe bet when it comes to corruption there.

    June 6, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  4. Zahir Mahmood

    First of all. That's alotta wasted money. Second, being a Pakistani I am Very glad these people got caught. I'm glad 'someone' is keeping a check on their investments here. These corrupt POSs' blow my mind. Pakistan is a country in which not even 10% of the population pays taxes and still wants to steal every single thing they can from someone else. This country need a Very major overhaul to say the least. There are obviously good people here; a lot of them but a couple million good people in a country of over 140 million aren't enough!!

    June 6, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  5. Andy in Oz

    Was an interesting idea bringing cute animals and monsters to Pakistani kids...... Big Bird, Elmo......SEALS....... I suspect it was always doomed to fail though.

    June 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  6. Mohammad Kashif

    There was a clear procurement rules misappropriation by Rafi Peer Group. Our dubai based partners at Media City Dubai were very furious since they wanted to bid. We filed a complaint at Transperency International , and after that today are thankful to US State Department for listening to us along with USAID Pakistan office and Transparency International. Their family member of Rafi Peer Group became the Chief of Party for the PCTV project.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  7. Dronaaa !!

    Pakistan cannot even make a cartoon serial without US aid ?? Pathetic country !!!!

    June 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  8. AcclaimedMan

    Good !!!

    These Porky RATs (Religiously Aggressive Terrorists) need 24/7 drone strikes, and not Sesame Street program in the TV channels !!!

    June 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Aman

    Great job CNN in letting ignorants have their say.....keep it up.....i dare you to post it

    June 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  10. Feroze

    Wow in retrospect a piddly 10 million dollar swindle which was possible only with the connivance ofUS AID makes it to the business section of CNN when BILLIONS have been lost to western scams like sub prime mortgages shows the clear bias of the west towards countries like Pakistan. How pathetic is that.

    June 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  11. Anna

    Um...did I miss the part where this Pakistani organization was found guilty of any wrong doing? because from what I have read there is an 'investigation in progress'. Also I have worked with USAID and EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is monitored and audited both internally and externally....so I want to know if USAID officials will also be charged with corruption? I also like to think we live in a society where people are innocent before being proven guilty. I have done some digging and the Pak organization is a well known family run business...if USAID awarded them the project they then KNEW that they were engaging a family run business in which family members hold key positions. how then is this subject to question 3 years into the project. It has also come to my notice that USAID and Sesame Street seem to be a bit of a bargaining chip in all the troubled regions and are always subject to political currents. I also red that USAID has reneged on almost 105 other projects in Pakistan...seems like its classic election year cost cutting to me!

    June 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  12. Manoj

    US has confused as far as policy towards foreign countries is concerned. You cannot separate business interests and political interests . China is aiding Pakistan with arms and nuclear capabilities. China slowly is believing that in future it would take place of US. Yet business interests do not allow US to take action. If US does not aid China will. Pakistanis are hard working people but american aid has destroyed them to develop their industries . If you give beggar a fish he will survive for a day . Teach him how to fish he will never beg again .

    June 10, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  13. SuperiorEuropean

    Sounds like a NSA contrived plot to discredit Pakistan... ONE PHONE CALL TO A 'HOTLINE' and the millions are cancelled? Plus a nice writeup in CMM Business to publicise the operation right across the united states of illiterates? That was a dropped quarter well spent, hur?

    Now you can launch the drones, 500lb Paveways armed, Cluster Bomblets Primed... now where's that hospital full of widows and orphans? Yeah... usa #1!

    Nice work, guys! Almost not obvious!

    June 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  14. aby15

    i agree with the comments from "Freddie Nerk" – Pakistan is a hot-bed of corruption and it is ramp from top-to-bottom.
    Agreed 150% my friend. But as a Pakistani i ask you – why is it then that the governments of the UK and US stubbornly support the most corrupt regime in the world??? Yes these corrupt so-and-sos are the biggest problem for Pakistan – but why were they implanted in the first place by the US?
    Dont just play the blame game dude, at least have the decency to offer a solution also!

    June 24, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  15. Javeria

    According to Rafi Peers last press conference they have gone through over 9 audits over the span of 2 years. the amount spend on the project is 5.2 million, how is it that USAID has not managed to figure out details of this account to date? is USAID so non-compliant that after so many audits they shudnt be having difficulty to know where the money has gone! common people, if the project spent 5.2 million stop saying they embezzled 20 million !!! WAKE UP !!!!

    July 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. Sara

    All rafi peer is asking for is the project to shut down systematically as per their contract with USAID! i believe thats a fair request shouldnt USAID be working according to their legal contracts ?????

    July 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  17. Anwar Amdad

    Javeria, you prove a great point. It's the highly unproffesional work ethic of the USAID that has lead to the shut down of the project. Sad times for Pakistan.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  18. Pete.

    Apparently these guys did something similar with some poor dudes in Palestine. Tsk tsk, USAID.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Angie4

    Its funny how Pakistanis are the ones being blamed for corruption when they are not even being able to shut down their project according to their contract. It seems that USAID is the power hungry organization in the mix, since they've pulled funding in 105 other countries. Everyone keeps bringing up Pakistans history but no one comments on the fact that us-aid has done this before, with Libya, Palestine and others and that's just coincidence right?
    We need to stop being so biased and do our research before passing judgements. Rafi Peer had an extensive outreach program for the show for particularly these reasons, to end corruption and extremism and instead fell prey to political plot and a media block in Pakistan – the media has been bought off and is not showing any of the articles written in favor of Rafi Peer or any of the 3 press conferences – so who are these people to talk about corruption?

    July 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Imran Shaukat

    Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop have repeatedly said that they are willing to go through any audits and have been through 9 in the last 2 years – plus they are currently undergoing 2 audits. I doubt that they would be willing to do this were they hiding something. It seems people are attacking them based on their own vendettas – by all accounts the program has been a success and very well recieved by children and parents across Pakistan. USAID is choosing to downsize its programs across the country that is their right but they have not given any proof in regards to the "alleged" corruption and have hurt the credibility of a wonderful educational program for the children of Pakistan.

    July 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  21. shazia

    very informative

    March 1, 2013 at 5:33 am |

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