Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Amidst these momentous developments, one still hears the bay-ghairat brigade squealing about the consequences of disobeying the badmash superpower. They harp on the same old tunes that they repeat ever time an effort is made to work towards an independent foreign policy. Essentially, they frighten us with three doomsday fallouts that they insist we can ill-afford. To begin with, they warn us that we cannot go to war with the superpower, suggesting that any effort to break free from the stranglehold of US policy would result in an all-out war. Then they tell us that our economy will collapse without the funds we receive in aid and loans from the US and the international financial institutions under its wings. Finally, they tell us that Pakistan will be over-run by militants and extremism if we walk away from the US, and the only way we could save ourselves from that fate is to blindly follow the US diktat. They would like to convince us of the helplessness of our situation. Their arguments betray their slavish mentality more than anything else.
Let’s take the last argument first. The decade-long US occupation of Afghanistan has actually fuelled militancy and extremism not only in the ravaged country, but also in Pakistan. Armed resistance has emerged, as the only way to fight occupation by a ruthless and unscrupulous foreign army in Afghanistan. And in our tribal areas, death of innocent civilians by drone strikes has pushed more and more young people into the ranks of militant outfits. There are also reasons to believe that the US has a direct role in funding and arming militant groups and manipulating them to its ends. Millions of dollars were, reportedly, doled out to warlords in Afghanistan by the US to ensure safe passage of its supplies through the areas controlled by them. Similarly, the Raymond Davis episode exposed the shady liaison that CIA maintained with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the civil and military leadership helped him escape the country, rather than getting to the bottom of the matter.
In any case, religious extremism and militancy are not problems that we can solve by hiding behind the dirty shoulders of a meddlesome and widely-hated superpower. It is actually the job of Pakistani leaders to tackle the twin menace of religious extremism and militancy and, as it is becoming clearer by the day, it can’t be done through US-directed military operations. In fact, the problem must be approached in a holistic way, reforming various aspects of religious institutions and education that feed these trends, and taking stock of the social and economic context within which they grow. Military power might be required in certain cases, but surely the entire strategy cannot be based on shooting them down.
The argument about the economic collapse is also myopic. It has been reported that Pakistan did not receive a single dollar from the US this year, nothing under the Kerry-Lugar eyewash and nothing under the head of the Coalition Support Fund. As far as the IMF is concerned, its poisonous loan injections are known around the world for their crippling effects on the poorest sections of the population. We have seen it in full action in recent years, complete with its prescriptions of indirect taxation and increases in the cost of utilities. IMF loans and dole-outs from the US and its rich Nato allies are actually instruments of colonial control that only serve to create a false notion of dependency. Other than feeding corruption among the bureaucratic and political elite, with some crumbs thrown to consultants and employers of various useless and fruitless projects, they serve little purpose. We would be actually better off without these dole- outs and crippling loans, and could finally sit down to fashion our economic policies based on our own needs and resources.
The most absurd argument is about a war with the US. Basically, it asks us to behave like a pigeon, who closes its eyes on seeing an approaching cat. Whether we like it or not, the US is engaged in an undeclared war against Pakistan that it sees as a hurdle in its plans for the region. Obviously, eliminating safe havens of terrorism is just an excuse. Whether it is the posturing of its puppet government in Afghanistan and its strategic partner India, or its aggressive meddling in which gas pipeline should be built between which countries, the signs are too many to ignore. In fact, it would be difficult to come to any other conclusion if one were to connect the many damning dots from the previous years. If the bay-ghairat brigade didn’t see it before, the Mohmand attack should have made it clear as daylight. So what are they saying basically? That we should let ourselves be bled by an enemy just because it comes disguised as a friend?
A war is not such a good thing and no sensible person would advocate starting one, with a weak country or the mightiest military alliance. At the same time, the bay-ghairat brigade should understand that taking cognisance of a war brought to our border and defending ourselves from the deceptive attacks by a so-called ally does not amount to starting a war. In fact, this is the only way to end the unjust war across the border that has gone on for too long!
The writer is an independent columnist.