Alice in Wonderland: A summit most unequal!

WAJID NAEEMUDDIN

ARTICLE (July 29 2008): By the time this appears in print, the much heralded meeting between US President Bush and Pakistan PM Gilani will probably have taken place. At the moment one can only marvel at the baggage (I do not mean the bags and suitcases, the extra large entourage accompanying the PM is carrying) the Pak team carries.

Consider first the statements the de facto ruler, Asif Zardari and his docile PM have been making in recent days: Addressing a conference in Greece a few days ago Zardari admitted rather nonchalantly that our tribal areas are a breeding ground for terrorism, and likewise, for good measure, that our Madressahs are producing extremists.

He stressed that these hotbeds of terrorism were a danger not only for Pakistan but for the whole world. Attached to each of these “admissions” was the urgent plea: give us more money so that we can save our own country as well as America and the world from the terrorists’ onslaught. Not to be outdone, PM Gilani allegedly made a statement holding out the probability of another 9/11 type attack on America from the tribal areas.

For sheer implausibility and stupidity this takes the cake! For shame, not a word was heard in this rhetoric about the need to look into the root cause of much “terrorist” activity and suicide attacks and no mention of the need to stop the massacre of Muslims around the world, be it in Palestine, in Iraq, in Somalia, or in Kashmir to name a few places where Muslim blood flows freely on one false pretext or another!

How will the “summit” go? It is patently obvious that Bush and his neo con friends, specially vice-president Cheney will latch on to the above “admissions” and bear down heavily on Pakistan “to do more”. They have no doubt been playing that tune since long but this time it will be much more than nudging and prodding.

America will ask for much more action on the part of the Pak Army. In fact, nothing short of full scale war and unparalleled (Pakistani) blood letting will satisfy it. Not having been able to make any tangible progress against Afghan Taliban, the Nato forces led by America, now pin their hopes on a breakthrough with the active help of the Pak army.

They conveniently ignore the fact that most of the fighting in Afghanistan is in Afghan provinces quite far from the Pak-Afghan border and well into the deep interior of that country. Apart from confronting Pak leaders with their own self-incriminating statements, what other levers US is likely to use to force them to follow US diktat? The obvious answer is money.

Thanks to eight years of misrule, the economy is bankrupt with soaring inflation, record deficit in balance of payments and with the servicing of past loans (wasted away in subsidising corruption and inefficiency instead of being used in development) touching astronomical proportions.

The past four months of the new government, however, produced no vision either. Nor are any well laid out landmarks of a plan towards eventual relief, visible. Instead, it is bogged down in resisting the demands of its own popular mandate in respect of restoration of the judiciary and curtailment of the powers of the establishment and in protecting the NRO. Also, the new rulers have failed to set an example of thrift and austerity to orient the country towards economic independence.

On the other hand, they fly in big, chartered aircraft (otherwise meant to carry hundreds of passengers), take huge entourages along on foreign trips, stay at the most expensive hotels (where a single night’s stay could cost several hundred thousand Rupees per person) and in general throw money about as if the country were rich and floating in surplus wealth! This, at a time when there are increasingly frequent reports of poverty related suicides and of mothers giving children away rather than see them starve with the family.

Therefore, no doubt, money would be uppermost in the minds of Pakistani leaders in their discussions with the Bush administration. With the kind of baggage our leaders are carrying, money will no doubt come but at an increasingly higher cost in terms of much persistent strident demands that we do much more to counter “terrorism”.

Conditionalities attached to the money will be painful and will impinge on our sovereignty. By American reckoning our success in meeting American demands “to do more” will be measured in terms of reduction in pressure on the American forces in Afghanistan. There will also be much closer accounting of the money doled out by the American administration.

It will be based on how much Pakistani blood is shed in America’s war on terror. Despite brave talk by our PM and others that operation by foreign troops on Pakistani soil will not be “allowed”, Americans are unlikely to pay attention or to revise their oft repeated policy stating that if the “prize” is right, they will not hesitate to enter Pakistan in hot pursuit.

Missile attacks from across the border which have never stopped will now rain down more freely and cause many more civilian deaths. In short the summit is likely to result in more money from America but, at the same time, more with conditions attached and more interference in the affairs of Pakistan.

Among other, perhaps more important outcomes, restoration of judiciary will receive a setback, President Musharraf’s shaky tenure will receive renewed backing for staying the course and Nawaz Sharif will become more of an outcast as far as American pleasure goes. The dream of a popularly elected government leading the country to an era of justice, fair play and true independence appears to be fast fading. (yawajid@yahoo.com)

Courtesy: Business Recorder, 29/7/2008

 

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