Imagined sovereignty — I

Nobody shouts about sovereignty from the rooftops when the IMF dictates our budget.

Rubina Saigol May 04, 2011

Suddenly, there is a chorus of indignant voices about Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour. Former dictator Pervez Musharraf has described the US operation to kill Osama bin Laden as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Members of the Senate from the opposition benches, are screaming themselves hoarse about the breach of our sovereignty and have demanded an explanation from our leaders. Several TV anchors and journalists are parroting the sovereignty discourse day in and day out. The sovereignty rhetoric comes on the heels of the chief of army staff’s Yaum-e-Shuhada address in which he declared that Pakistan would not trade the nation’s honour and integrity for the sake of prosperity.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that we are sovereign because our constitution, framed by our honourable leaders in 1973, tells us in its first sentence that sovereignty, over the entire universe, belongs to Allah alone. Not only did we constitutionally cede our sovereignty, we subsequently surrendered our economic sovereignty, the basis of political sovereignty, to the US, and ultimately to the IMF and the World Bank. For years now, it is the IMF that tells us which taxes to levy, how much to spend on our people, how high or low the interest rate should be, how to privatise basic services and rights such as health and education. In other words, that ultimate political document that determines who produces wealth and income and on whom and how it is spent, the budget, is formulated by actors other than our elected representatives, who obediently acquiesce and pretend that they are the ones who make decisions. Strangely, nobody shouts about sovereignty from the rooftops when this charade is carried out annually.

Amazingly, we don’t worry about our imagined and ever-slipping sovereignty when foreigners, of all shades and hues, occupy our ungoverned and governed areas. We only worry about hospitality, whether it is the Haqqani network, entrenched obstinately in our allegedly ‘ungovernable’ areas, or Osama bin Laden himself, comfortably ensconced in a spacious house in close proximity to our military academy. We develop total amnesia about our sovereignty when al Qaeda members converge on our hospitable soil from all four corners of the world and kill, maim and mutilate our citizens with wild abandon. They blow up our markets, bomb our public spaces and murder our men, women and children with heartless regularity. We suddenly wake up to issues of sovereignty only when the world’s most feared terrorist outfit is decapitated. We seem to have become so used to ceding our sovereignty to outsiders, roaming all over our land and killing us, that we have forgotten what sovereignty means.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2011.


Ashok | 10 years ago | Reply Dear Rubina Saigol, I really liked your work in Viewpoint on Iqbal. However, you should know that Mr. Meekal Ahmed was a senior member of the IMF and has worked in a very important capacity in a Pakistani governmental agency, and has written frankly and sincerely on a number of issues. Just search his name on the Express Tribune search bar and you will find his comments and articles. I'm sure Mr. Ahmed must be smiling after reading your response. I guess this is what happens when an economist argues with an independent researcher.
Rubina Saigol | 10 years ago | Reply Dear Meekal Ahmad, It seems to me that your understanding of the IMF is very limited. There is a mountain of material on the IMF's role as world's economic policeman that serves the interests of the developed countries. One book that I would like to recommend to you is called 'Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World' by Arturo Escobar. It really reveals how the newly independent countries were re-colonized by the Bretton Woods Institutions through the mantra of privatization, liberalization and de-regulation; it was in 2008 that even countries like the US nationalized and understood the importance of regulation when finance capital was hit by a crisis. I think the book I have recommended will really help you to understand the IMF. There is a wealth of other material also. I think you take a rather simplistic and uninformed view of IMF.
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