As the review of Pak-US relations enters its final phase, a sustained campaign seems to have started to revive the dubious engagement between the two countries with a few face-saving measures thrown in. Leaks in the media tell us that the Nato supplies through Pakistan will be restored after being taxed and that the US military trainers would be allowed to return after assurances that they will not provide cover for CIA operations in the country. Without waiting for Parliament to debate and decide on the issue, ministers of the PPP government have been giving statements that indicate their desire not to rock the boat in any meaningful way. While eagerness on part of the US to get back to business as usual is understandable, does it make sense for us to follow the normalisation course for more dollars and assurances that actually mean nothing? Don't we know how the gang of US and its Nato allies operates?
It defies all logic to view the Pak-US relationship in a vacuum. The proponents of normalisation would like to discuss the relationship with no reference to the historical role of the badmash superpower and the similar games it has played around the world; killing millions of innocent people, destroying countries on all continents and subjugating them to satisfy the greed of its unscrupulous corporations; they would like to wish away even the regional context. They would like to focus on the details without looking at the larger picture. The Nato containers were passing through Pakistan without paying any taxes, the heavy traffic has damaged our roads and bridges, so we should be compensated for the damage to our infrastructure. Do they not know what these containers carry? Do they not know who uses these supplies and against whom? Does it not matter that thousands of these containers never reached Afghanistan?
One has to be either ignorant or ill-intentioned to gloss over the undeclared clandestine games the US and its Nato allies play all over the world in the name of some higher objective. Can we be sure that the containers that disappeared somewhere between Karachi and the Afghan border were not used for arming various groups in Pakistan? It has been reported that Mossad used the CIA cover to fund and arm the anti-Iran Jundullah militants in Pakistani Balochistan. Was it only the Jundullah that they were arming? Can we be sure that none of those containers disappeared for the benefit of Baloch insurgents and militant groups? Hasn't it been a standard practice for the US to fund and arm militant groups in countries it wants to destabilise and control? Why would it act any differently in our case?
The reality of economic assistance from the US and the international financial institutions that it controls is no secret either. One just has to open one's eyes to the fate of other countries that have benefited from this corrupting largesse to appreciate what it amounts to. Instead of rescuing developing countries from problems of misgovernance and poverty, these bailouts have been used as a rule to bolster and benefit corrupt elites in the recipient countries and to jack up the profits for its corporations who get the contracts. Eventually, these loans take on a life of their own, forcing the poor countries to keep borrowing to repay the interest on those loans, and making them dependent and hence subservient to the US diktat. The debt leverage is used to further tighten the screws on the poor countries, forcing them to adopt economic and development policies that ensure their continued dependence.
Is it not strange that whether there is a democratic government in Pakistan or a military dictatorship, our economic policies are tailored by imported Finance Ministers, who are borrowed from the IMF, World Bank, multinational corporations or some top-notch bank? These ministers-on-deputation are incapable of thinking beyond the loans and using them to manage figures? They are only interested in keeping us entangled in this vicious web and convincing us that there is no way out. Apparently, that is what the current Finance Minister has told the Parliamentary Committee on National Security entrusted with the task of preparing recommendations for the government regarding the review of Pak-US relations. After all, one important purpose of advancing these no-good loans is precisely that; keeping the indebted countries in line when it comes to foreign policy.
The reality of economic assistance and military interventions led by the US in different parts of the world should make us wiser about what lies in store for us, if we are lured back into its trap of useless dollars and deceptive rhetoric. The review should focus on further limiting the US role in the country, downsizing the US Embassy, and closing down its consulates. The crumbs of aid that have no benefit for Pakistanis should be refused and loans offered by international financial institutions that are little more than tools of imperialist control declined in favour of laying the foundation of a self-reliant economy that works to the advantage of the poorest, rather than the already fat cats. There should be no resumption of military or intelligence cooperation with a devious ally that shoots our soldiers and innocent civilians, and carries out subversive operations behind our back. Instead, Pakistan should work with other countries in the region to end the US occupation of Afghanistan that it has used to foment instability in the region.
This is not impossible. The only problem is that those in charge of our destiny do not seem to have the capacity to say “no” to the global badmash. With a President who rushed to the American Embassy first thing after his party won the national elections, a Finance Minister who is more of an agent of international capital, and a political elite weaned on subservience, such a bold redefinition of our relationship seems unlikely. The good thing is that, unlike their leaders, the citizens of Pakistan are not compromised. They clearly see the need to break the deathly embrace and push the US to an arm's length, if not further away. If the present government refuses to submit to their will, the next one will have to.
The writer is an independent columnist.