Pakistan should stand on its own economic feet

By Asif Haroon Rajagdp_growth_gfx_blue

Both Musharraf regime, which initiated the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and Zardari regime which furthered it served foreign agenda at the cost of national interests and people of Pakistan. In 12 years, Pakistan received a paltry amount of $10 billion from USA, large part of which was CSF, meant to pay for services acquired/rendered. In exchange Pakistan incurred a loss of $80 billion in fighting the insane war. Force was the sole weapon used to crush the militants who had been provoked to pick up arms against the State. While it was understandable for the occupation forces operating in foreign land and against aliens to continue using force as a preferred strategy to eliminate militant Muslims, the same strategy didn’t altogether suit Pakistani troops since they were pitched against own people within Pakistan. Moreover, the tribesmen of FATA had never rebelled against the State and had faithfully defended the western border in accordance with the pledge given to Quaid-e-Azam in April 1948.

FATA was peaceful in 2001 and remained so even after the induction of regular troops in South Waziristan (SW) in 2002. Ahmadzai Wazirs helped the troops in flushing out foreigners. They picked up arms in 2004 when the troops supported by gunship helicopters, artillery guns and air power launched series of military operations. Peace deals signed by the Army with the militants between 2004 and 2008 were meant to renew fighting after regaining breath and not to end the war for good. Even if they wanted to stop fighting, outside powers made sure that they didn’t. Drone was used as a spoiling attack to break deals. Both sides were bucked up and provided material and financial support to bleed each other to death.

While each side gloated over their tactical victories, in the ensuing cross fire, peaceful citizens suffered the most for no fault of theirs. While the security forces arrested the suspected militants and their sympathizers, the TTP killed the pro-government elders, Maliks and clerics in FATA and shooed away the civil administration. CIA and FBI coordinated and supervised this gruesome game. CIA in league with other intelligence agencies stoked terrorism and poured tons of oil to prevent the flames of terrorism from extinguishing. Till to-date, over 40,000 people have died at the hands of terrorists, suicide bombers and bomb blasts. Tens of thousands were injured and many among them crippled for life.

Fear, uncertainty and insecurity together with poor governance, cronyism, wholesale corruption and worst energy crisis during the infamous Zardari rule wasted away whatever little economic gains had been made during Musharraf’s regime. Willful misdoings and absence of rule of law and accountability dried up foreign investment, stopped the wheels of industry, destroyed public sector enterprises, piled up massive foreign and domestic debt and impoverished the economy. By the time the new democratic dispensation took over power in June 2013, the country had reached the brink of collapse and was on the verge of being declared a failed State.

Cleaning up of cobwebs and restoration of economic health is a Herculean task for the incumbent government. Despite significant steps taken by PML-N regime in the last ten months of its rule, Pakistan’s economy has not stabilized. Inflation and price spiral have not come down although the economic indicators are steadying. The malaise is too jumbled up and complex. One of the biggest hurdles in the way of crossing the Rubicon Line is the ongoing war on terror which has bled Pakistan profusely and drained its economy. Pakistan which had a respectable standing till 2004 among the comity of nations is now dubbed as the most dangerous country in the world.

Pakistani leadership remained so infatuated to USA and obsessed with the US imposed war that they shut their eyes to the double game played by the so-called friends of Pakistan. USA, India and Afghanistan, supposed to be the allies of Pakistan in the GWOT, kept heaping scorn and baseless allegations on Pakistan’s premier institutions and stabbed Pakistan in the back whenever opportunity came their way. Military standoff with India in 2001/02 and in 2008/09, presence of Blackwater in federal/provincial capitals of the country, Raymond Davis incident, US Navy Seals raid in Abbottabad and brutal attack on Salala check post in 2011 coupled with malicious misinformation campaign by Indo-US-Western media maligning Pakistan on cooked up charges, US discriminatory behavior and its refusal to stop drone attacks didn’t open the eyes of our rulers. Washington’s repeated slaps and insults didn’t bring any change in their subservient deportment. A friendly wink or a warm handshake with a promise of another installment of aid made our leaders ecstatic and they promptly geared up to do more.

For the last 13 years the US leaders have over and over again been lying to Pakistan that the two enjoy strategic relationship and that they want to build lasting relations based on mutual trust and respect. In reality the US has forged strategic relations with India and Afghanistan while it has treated Pakistan more as a foe and less as an ally. It has backed the Indo-Afghan covert war to destabilize Pakistan and dismember it from within so that its nukes could be disabled. The US think tanks and government controlled media as well as officials have been circulating stories of breakup of Pakistan by 2015 and spews venom against Pak Army, ISI and nuclear program. The US openly supports the Baloch separatists seeking independence of Balochistan. Segment of Pak media, particularly Jang-Geo Group, promotes foreign agenda.

The whole world knows that both India and Afghanistan are heavily involved in covert operations against Pakistan since 2002 using Afghan soil. Late Balach Marri and Brahamdagh Bugti were sheltered by Afghan government. Fugitives Fazlullah, Khalid Omar Khurasani and Faqir Muhammad are enjoying the hospitality of Afghan government since 2009. Kunar and Nuristan are their safe havens from where they are launching their militants since 2011. Not for once the US has admonished the two countries involved in cross border terrorism, or any concern shown on the sanctuaries. It has looked the other way to over 70 training camps established by RAW and RAAM under the supervision of Afghan National Directorate of Security along Pak-Afghan border to train, equip and launch terrorists into FATA and Balochistan. Indian Embassy and four Consulates latched with 14 Indian intelligence units in Afghanistan are entirely focused towards Pakistan.

Not only India and Afghanistan have been given a clean chit, their complaints are listened to with compassion by Washington and accordingly Pakistan is censured. Ironically, the absurd stance of the chief trouble maker India that it is the victim of terrorism is acknowledged by the west. American radars are fixed on Pakistan only. The whole flak comes on Pakistan which has sacrificed the most and is the biggest victim of terrorism. Since 2010, hue and cry has been made over North Waziristan and Pakistan repeatedly warned to flush out the terrorists or else be ready for dire consequences.

Well knowing that India is the arch enemy of Pakistan and she keeps conspiring to breakup Pakistan, the US bolstered India’s conventional defence capability significantly and also upgraded her nuclear capability by signing civil nuclear deal. Heavy tilt in the military balance in her favor has made India more aggressive and uncompromising. The US helped India in consolidating her presence in Afghanistan thereby facilitating her plans to encircle Pakistan. India’s water terrorism aimed at forcing Pakistan to give up Kashmir is jeopardizing the lives of 180 million Pakistanis. Illegal construction of dams has not been objected to by the west.

India’s worst human rights abuses in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) against Muslim Kashmiris since 1989 have been ignored. Instead of pressuring India to abide by the UN resolutions and hold a plebiscite in IOK, the US presses Pakistan to accept India’s plan of converting Line of Control into international border. India and Pakistan can live as peaceful and friendly neighbors once Kashmir dispute is resolved and not otherwise. The solution cannot be found without involving Kashmiris in the dialogue process.

Both the US and India tried hard to spoil Pakistan’s relations with Iran and China and has been putting hurdles in the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. In spite of hostile stance of the trio, Pakistan leadership has been consistently pursuing self-defeating policy of appeasement. Incumbent government is making efforts to reduce dependence upon the US by leaning more heavily upon China, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, Turkey and South Korea to overcome its energy crisis and improve its economy.

Until and unless Pakistan get rid of US imposed war, reforms its political, judicial, financial and administrative systems, enforces rule of law and strict accountability of the law breakers, terrorists and criminals, strap up out-of-control media, breaks the begging bowl and stands on its own economic feet, it will remain dependant and vulnerable to exploitation and fragmentation.

The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

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