Shireen M Mazari
Absurdities have become the hallmark of the Pakistani ruling elite for some time now, but the situation has probably never been as bizarre as it is at present. Take the case of the Pakistan-US relationship which is fast degenerating into a client-master equation. We had official Pakistani circles jumping for joy with the passage of the Kerry-Lugar bill through the US Senate. Pakistan’s man in Washington, at least in designation, saw it as a personal triumph that he got this bill through its first major hurdle, and our leadership expressed unqualified exuberance in welcoming this event. So why are so many of us filled with trepidation when we see the content of this bill – something most of the Zardari party loyalists have never bothered to do.
To begin with, we need to put things into perspective. The bill, till it becomes law after going through all the Congressional procedures, is not going to turn on the money tap for Pakistan, and there is an expectation that in the House of Representatives even more conditionalities may be latched on to what is already a conditionality-laden bill. Beyond this, what are of vital importance are the conditionalities the US is seeking to push down our throats in order for this money to be doled out. And let us not forget that this money already comes at great cost to Pakistan in terms of lives lost to terrorism that came to haunt us post-9/11 and after we jumped on to the US bandwagon; in terms of economic costs with markets lost and rising insurance costs of exports thanks to having become a frontline state in an unending War on Terror; in terms of a three-theatre threat calculus for the military (eastern and western fronts and asymmetric warfare against terrorism within the country) and the hardware costs and soldiers lives that that has entailed; and, in terms of the uncertainty and insecurity across the nation at large. And one has not even begun to calculate the hidden costs in terms of psychological damage to the nation, a culture of fear and mistrust and so on.
So it should have been incumbent upon President Zardari and his expensive team of advisors to inform the US effectively of these costs to the Pakistani nation. Given how we have spent millions out of Pakistan’s precious resources to also hire Mark Siegel and his firm to lobby for Pakistan in Congress, there should be some accountability as to why there has been a total failure to acknowledge what Pakistan has lost while being the frontline state in the US-led War on Terror. For a failure it has been, if one looks at the conditionalities already present in the bill – and from a Pakistani perspective it is irrelevant whether these are “softer” than what was originally drafted, because they are still unacceptable if one is to remain a self-respecting rationally sovereign nation.
Shireen M Mazari