The White House has confirmed that the US is suspending $800 million in military aid to Pakistan. It says the US relationship with Pakistan is difficult and must be made “to work over time” and until “we get through that difficulty, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers are committed to give” to its ally, Pakistan. The American press says that “the US is upset with Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and wants tougher action against the Taliban and others fighting American soldiers in Afghanistan”.
The aid that will not be forthcoming will be military aid, which means the quarrel is with the Pakistan Army, whose chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has already expressed himself opposed to receiving it, recommending that it be given to the civilian side. His observation that the army was receiving far less American money than was being publicised by Washington shows the intensity of the quarrel that is developing between the two sides, the Pakistani side being represented by the army because it essentially handles the country’s foreign policy and makes all the big decisions. As for public opinion, General Kayani could have felt no twinge of conscience as the country is completely engulfed in anti-Americanism.
If you separate the political aspects of going it alone, then the economist in Pakistan is happy to provide the grounds for saying goodbye to American money. One leading economist observed: “The facts speak for themselves. Although the Congress authorised a tripling of development assistance in 2008 to $1.5 billion per year, the actual disbursements in fiscal year 2009 were $275 million and $676 million in 2010, including $500 million spent on flood relief. Assuming that the whole $3 billion in economic and military assistance (including $1 billion under the Coalition Support Fund) is disbursed fully, this accounts for less than seven per cent of the total foreign exchange earnings of the country’.
However, the political fallout remains unstudied. The divorce with America will be followed by one from the European Union where foreign policy pronouncements are usually muffled but where fear of terrorism radiating from Pakistan is greatly felt. The all-important $12 billion received as foreign remittances might be affected if Pakistan’s failure of governance worsens since this could have an adverse effect on the banking system. Pakistan’s own capital, including funds stashed away by the politicians, is fleeing the country. If punitive measures are taken against the country through the IMF and the World Bank, Pakistan could be in great difficulty.
What the Pakistani economist is not realising is the nature of the American or western grievance. Let us list it as it appears in the American press: “Pakistan is home to more terrorists than any other country, many of them harboured by the Pakistani Army and its ISI intelligence service. Osama bin Laden lived less than a mile from the country’s top military academy, its West Point, for five years. His heir, Ayman alZawahiri, is probably somewhere nearby. Mullah Omar, amir of Believers to al Qaeda and head of the Afghan Taliban, commutes between Quetta and Karachi. Hafiz Saeed, head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and mastermind of the Mumbai massacre, lives and preaches openly in Lahore. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, head of Harkatul Mujahedeen, which hijacked an Indian airliner in 1999, lives in an Islamabad suburb. Dawood Ibrahim, who killed hundreds with bombs on Mumbai’s metro in 1993, lives in Karachi”. And the Americans believe Pakistan is getting the Taliban to kill Americans across the Durand Line. Will Pakistan be bailed out by China? Or Saudi Arabia? So far, there are no signs of it, unless there is a secret agreement, but then the economist will have to spell out to the Chinese and the Saudis how much money will be required for a Pakistan institutionally dysfunctional to handle money. On the other hand, it is equally uncertain if terrorism will end by itself because Pakistan has finally ‘got rid of the Americans’. In fact, this thinking is a corollary to the intensely felt anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Is Pakistan in a position to take the risk of testing the truth of its passions?
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2011.