AID TO PAKISTAN: West! Whither Thy Wisdom?

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Past favours by Pakistani GHQ be damned – it would be in every American, European, Arabian and Asian nation’s and citizen’s interest that their generous aid helps mitigate people’s suffering and does not line some Pakistani elite’s pockets and finally end up fuelling the economic and security nuisance that Pakistan perpetuates and perhaps has even come to symbolize …. writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

“We (Pakistan) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (Atom bomb) … We have no other choice!” – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (C. 1970)

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s once aspirational declaration has assumed a prophetic sense with Pakistan going bankrupt again and pleading the world to extricate it out of the cesspool that it has landed itself into. Fate (ardently assisted by Pakistan’s arrogance and ineptitude) is not without a sense of irony – this time, it has fallen on Zulfikar’s own grandson to tour the world with a begging bowl.

Pakistan, since its insidious creation in 1947, has consistently demonstrated paranoid and schizophrenic behaviour in both internal governance as well as international interactions. However, owing to its geographic location and political malleability, it has been able to deceitfully extricate disproportionate leverage from the global-rich. In its short history, Pakistan perhaps holds the distinction of being able to successfully fool the West in general and Americans in particular; Russians, Muslims across the world and the Gulf-countries in particular and now China into believing that their best interests would be served by funding Pakistan’s existence and regional misadventures.

About five decades of practice has made Pakistan remarkably adept at fleecing the world’s kindness and manipulating their guilt – today the West and China both continue to pamper this malevolent post middle-aged man who just doesn’t want to get out of their basement. And yes, Pakistan has a nuclear bomb – about 165 of them by last count! 

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s stance is also emblematic of Pakistan’s priorities as a nation. Countries naturally grapple with the Guns Vs Butter dilemma whilst allocating their own hard-earned resources in their budgets. However, Pakistan appears to be faced with Guns Vs Terrorism conundrum whilst being eye-deep in debt and allocating resources begged or borrowed. The butter aspect of this dilemma has somehow become the rest of the world’s problem. Nothing exemplifies this better than the way resources have been allocated in the recent Pakistani budget. Out of the PKR 9.579 trillion outlay, Defence Affairs and Services is pegged at PKR 1,566.698 billion.   This is about 16.3% of the total budget outlay, 1.94% of GDP and 14.1% year on year increase. This, however, does not give the full picture of the actual amount being spent on the Armed Forces.

Examples of unmentioned expenditure would include, but not be limited to, PKR 395 billion which would be paid as pension to retired military personnel and would come from the civilian government’s current expenditure, military acquisitions which are funded separately, funds for the nuclear weapons programme etc. An honest declaration (and this is based on detailed study of budget documents) would show that actual expenditure for military purposes would roughly be about 47% higher than the budgetary estimate and will deplete 24% of the overall resources at the government’s disposal. Putting it another way, Pakistan’s expenditure in the current fiscal was 28% higher than previous year with 68% being spent on interest payment on loans and on defence. This translates to 20% higher expenditure on the military and 48% lesser expenditure on development as compared to the previous year.

Pakistan’s financial mismanagement and governance deficit is resulting in a preposterous situation wherein the Government is asking all elements of economy and governance to shut-down early in the day or work from home to save money and at the same time tendering out USO 257 Million worth of military procurements. This is apart from all other defence procurements, raising of new forces and international defence cooperation initiatives initiated or approved before June 2022. On one hand one has to agree that it is every sovereign nation’s prerogative to priorities its expenditures, however, on the other – This is Pakistan! – Doling out borrowed wealth to currently unmeriting and contextually irrelevant purposes.

Flood affected people are seen in Jamshoro district, Pakistan. (Xinhua/IANS)

The World bank has estimated USO 40 billion losses to Pakistan due to the recent floods impacting 33 million people. Fuel and food prices are sky-rocketing and the fundamentals of the economy inspire very little hope. Even in such desperate times, some people maybe of the view that this kind of resource allocation is, at best, political imprudence and can be tempered by mid-course corrections. In several other cases one might even agree with the premise but – This is Pakistan! – China’s serf – state, parading the OBOR flag and harmonising military technologies with China from submarines to space. It is the same state whose Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took great pride in claiming credit for illegally transferring US Tomahawk technology to China and the State suspected of permitting examination of Black Hawk wreckage by China after the Abbottabad humiliation; the State who’s chief nuclear scientist AQ Khan is proven to have illegitimately fathered more than just one nuclear bomb and nurturing instability in the Indian and the Pacific oceans; the State whose support and subsidising of Terrorism as a tool of national policy has made it the world’s largest exporter of Terrorism and Terrorists! The global security implications of such irresponsible behaviour are a cause of serious concern and require to be addressed by the donor nations and organisations with a sense of urgency and coerciveness.

There is an urgent need to hold Pakistan accountable for what it is doing with the rest of humanity’s wealth. Pakistan has a proven track record of misappropriating resources from the needy to the greedy – the embezzlement of international relief aid during 2010 floods is still fresh in global memory. It is imperative that the enlightened West apply its wisdom to the extant case and ensure that the bail-outs that they so generously provide helps sustain the human indices of Pakistan and does not end up further militarising the region.

Past favours by Pakistani GHQ be damned – it would be in every American, European, Arabian and Asian nation’s and citizen’s interest that their generous aid helps mitigate people’s suffering and does not line some Pakistani elite’s pockets and finally end up fuelling the economic and security nuisance that Pakistan perpetuates and perhaps has even come to symbolise. As Pakistan has proven to be immune to good advice, it would be prudent for the West to internalise and apply the wisdom of Hillary Clinton’s apt words – “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard!”

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