The extrapolation of the neo-colonial discourse onto the Pakistani geo-political context provides the most commonplace and plausible explanation; the United States exercises control over the Pakistani political and economic system, and, of late its territories without formally declaring it a colony. And this hurts the likes of the common mindset because it chooses to believe that it is free to function independently.
So in the way of understanding why US is the most favourite buddy of the establishment, the military can be considered a good junction to begin analysis. Taking a prudent estimate, the government has budgeted an average amount of Rs300 billion annually to defense services in the 8-10 years, arriving at an estimated total of Rs3 trillion. In comparison, the US military assistance to Pakistan has amounted to approximately $7.89 billion (Rs694 billion)since 9/11 in addition to another $3.1 billion for economic assistance (Collectively Rs965 billion). Moreover, other sources claim that military and economy assistance to Pakistan since 2001 totals more than $20 billion (Rs1.8 trillion) of which 68 per cent is military specific. Thus, conservatively inferring, at least one fourth of the military budget has been funded by the US under the pretext of war on terror, in the face of little preoccupation for such a large standing army.
Moreover, a large chunk of external assistance is channeled indirectly through our fanciful multilateral donors who would not lend the country a nail had the bountiful and favorable eye of the US not prevailed. In the absence of year-wise data, the data for 2008 and 2009 reveals that more than half of all external assistance is routed through the WB, IMF, ADB and others. So while one continuously complains about the lack of development spending in the economy, one can only imagine what life would be for more than 60 per cent of the population, if non-state actors would lose their funding. In 2010, this assistance amounted to about $4 billion (Rs350 billion) with each donor contributing between $1-2 billion whereas in 2002, total external assistance stood at less than $800 million. Thus, the spillovers on the educated elite in the country’s capital have been numerous and all at the behest of the soft side of the war on terror.
Additionally, the US also forms the country’s largest export market accounting for about 25 per cent of the export earnings. It is also the largest source of remittances on which the economy’s balance of payments structurally relies upon. Thus, the without quoting numbers, it can be profoundly stated that disengagement with the US, while not ‘suiting’ the military, would be mean the death of the miniscule bourgeoisie that has continuously struggled to survive since independence.
While blanket assertions about Pakistan’s dependence are made often, the caveat about disengagement are also coupled with fear of negative reaction from allies of the US which are already in the process of cutting down budgets in which ever way they can. Thus intuitively, by standing as a front line state, the economy feeds its existence and in ways its extravagance. And as a corollary, we are all in some way answerable for the plight of Afghanis whose children do not own a future.
If the Pak-US dependency were to cease, rest assured no one would go hungry, and consumerism may come to a halt. Ideally, if the military were to realise the little reasons that exist behind its existence, the resources of the last ten years may end up in ‘progression’.
But ironically, losing favour would also imply getting bipolarly “bombed”. The choice has historically stood between letting a few feed, or, life and living in general.
The writer is an economic
researcher and freelance financial journalist. She can be reached at [email protected]