Editorial: April 2014
Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth?
Dr.Rasheed Hasan Khan
Good manners prohibit too minute an examination of a gift from a friend. But Pakistan’s long history of receiving dubious gifts from its ‘close’ friends and ‘allies’ makes it necessary to discard the rules dictated by good manners. Let us take a brief look at these gifts in a chronological order.
Immediately after the inception of Pakistan in1947, the powers that be saved the nation from an existentialist threat and ensured its survival by making it a partner of US and UK in Baghdad Pact and later CENTO and SEATO. This was the age of “Pactitis”– in return for our independence and sovereignty we received vintage WW II weapons , secret sites for spying on China and Russia and loads of Surplus American wheat under the title P.L.480(public law-480) . To make the wheat acceptable, the media created a panic about impending famine and then Voila! Camel carts loaded with American wheat (with placards thanking America around the neck of camels) rolled out from the Port in Karachi to save the population from famine and worse.
What the Pacts and weapons contributed to Pakistan’s welfare is there for everyone to see. Today a truncated Pakistan is fighting a battle for survival against internal terrorism and religious extremism while trying to maintain a viable position in a rapidly changing, competitive world. The American surplus wheat destroyed the frail agricultural economy of Pakistan, making the growing of wheat impractical and the growing of other cash crops impossible since that required greater inputs which at that point in time were not available. After the halcyon days of Pak-US friendship, the free wheat was no longer free but was to be purchased at a price….the money obtained from these transactions was deposited in the P.L.480 account in the branches of US banks in Pakistan. It was proved later that money from these accounts was used for political wheeling dealing in Pakistan. This was the first Gift to the people of Pakistan.
During the height of the Cold War US and allies resumed military ‘aid’ to Pakistan and in return Pakistan was converted into base for a proxy war in Afghanistan. It will take many decades for the political, economic and social fallout of this disastrous policy to be remedied. It goes without saying that the roots of the terrorist insurgency in Pakistan today are directly connected to the US lead war against the other competing super power during the decade extending from 1978-88.
The end of the last millennium brought with it collapse of Soviet-Union and the rise of the unipolar world. The change in contradictions on the international scene also brought in its wake new contradictions in the various regional arenas. War in Iraq, Occupation and War in Afghanistan, Post 9/11 US policies in Asia, Africa and Middle East all demand new and relevant policy prescriptions. The experience of Pakistani people with Gifts and Largesse has been very unpleasant to say the least. The latest gift of $ 1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia has to be evaluated in terms of the Saudi expectations from the Pakistani Government with regard to the changes underway in the region. In the past our too eager participation in fetching other’s loaves out of the fire has left us with severe burns, let there be greater perspicacity and wisdom now.