To the drone attacks and the illegal activities of US diplomats, our friend and ally has decided to add the insulting screening of Pakistani citizens at its airports. This is yet another step that underlines the naked US double-speak on Pakistan. More troublesome, however, has been the government’s acceptance of such shoddy treatment so far and that too with thanks. Apparently, the government’s subservient attitude is beginning to change. The coming days will tell us how real this newfound sense of dignity is and how far it goes?
Addressing Parliament last week, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani finally articulated in no uncertain terms the feeling of being short-changed at the hands of the United States. He said that his government was not interested in US aid at the cost of Pakistan’s dignity and sovereignty. The Parliament’s Committee on National Security has also recommended a review of the government’s slavish US policy. Given the sensitivity of a large majority of Pakistanis regarding the role of the US in their country, it is important that the government translates these words into action and come up with a policy that elevates Pakistan from the status of being a client state.
Obviously, the US administration views things differently. The day after the prime minister’s address, the US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke is reported to have expressed his undiplomatic anger in a meeting with the Pakistani politicians in Islamabad, complaining that they did not appreciate the American government for all the wonderful things it was doing for the development of their country. He was not happy that the politicians belonging to various political parties had chosen to criticise the US for the drone attacks and a number of other issues. The envoy did not give any assurance regarding the concerns expressed by the people’s representatives and in fact bluntly told them that the drone attacks would continue, the strip-searches would continue and a free-trade pact would not be possible. The message was that the politicians should not make any noises about these matters since the US administration was giving dollars for development.
When the Kerry-Lugar Bill was being debated in the country, in the media as well as Parliament, those opposing the bill had actually pointed at this cost of accepting the meagre money. Even if one were not to get into a discussion on how foreign aid actually disrupts rather than aid the development of a country, or the conditionalities attached, this simple aspect of accepting aid from the US should have been enough to reject it. After all, the donor would want something in return. And given the bloated arrogance of the US and its dangerous designs in the region, our government should have realised that it would be expected to pay a heavy price by accepting the dubious US aid. Holbrooke’s recent assertion says it better than anything else.
The logic is that since the US is giving us some million dollars, we should all shut up and not complain about innocent Pakistani citizens being killed by drone strikes that are remote-controlled from Langley, Virginia. Since the US will help us dig some tube wells, we should allow Americans to go around freely in our cities and countryside, armed with illegal weapons and riding cars with fake number plates. Since the US has promised to finance electricity generation in Pakistan using some of the dirtiest technologies for producing electricity from coal, being fast discarded the world over, we should accept it as our master and dance to its every jarring tune. Clearly, this is bad logic.
Some friends absolve the so-called sole superpower of any wrongdoing and say that we should be taking our government to task for all that is wrong. After all, they say, the US would do what is in its national interest. It is the Pakistan government that should be watching out for the interests of its citizens, and our wrath should be reserved for those calling the shots in the smelly corridors of power in Islamabad. They do have a point there, but things are not so simple.
It is true that ultimately it is the Pakistan government that is responsible for what goes on in Pakistan and for defining our foreign policy. It is also obvious that if you tie up the management of the country’s econ-omy with dole coming from US-controlled international financial institutions, and your country’s development to what the US throws in, you leave little room for an independent policy in any other domain. It is a matter of grave concern and an indicator of the poverty of vision on part of the much-hailed and much-saved democratic government that it decided to go down a road that is now well known for taking you to hell.
The IMF and World Bank are famous for peddling recipes for disasters that trap those they claim to help in debilitating debt. They destroy indigenous economies with their crafty jargon-laden economic spells and craft worthless pieces that fit into their scheme of a global sweat-house. It is difficult to believe that those running the government were not aware of what happens when you allow these dubious institutions to run your economy. Similarly, how the US uses its aid money to further its dirty corporate-driven global agenda is no secret either. If today Pakistanis are being asked to cough up more and more for utilities and tolerate the lawlessness perpetrated by the US on its territory, it is because of the choices that our government made and it should be taken to task for it.
Still, it does not absolve the US of its menacing role not only in Pakistan but all over the world. One has to be blind, deaf and dumb not to see it rampaging the globe in its hunger for capturing more and more resources, starting wars and subverting governments abroad and hypnotising its citizens with its clever doublespeak and falsehood.
The writer is a freelance columnist.