ONE fails to understand what exactly justifies the opposition’s demand to know the ‘conditions’ attached to the recent bailout package amounting to $6 billion that Prime Minister Imran Khan secured during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. No one has forgotten how smug the then finance minister — now absconder — Ishaq Dar was when the PML-N government secured a similar ‘gift from a friendly country’, in 2014. Other than the fact that the ‘gift’ was about a quarter of the current largesse, all other features appeared to be similar.
Why was it ‘halal’ for the PML-N to not ‘take the nation into confidence’ on the terms and details of the understanding with our Saudi benefactors and how come it is not so for the PTI to not divulge the fine print of the ‘deal’?
The PTI government is absolutely right in its assertion that there are no strings attached to the recent aid package from the House of Saud. Terms and conditions are always future-oriented and forward-looking. This relationship of un-equals that we are discussing is anything but backward in its very essence. Pakistan does not need to worry about any financial liabilities tied to the Saudi package in future. The country has already paid for it in advance. In blood.
The continued Saudi support is in return for the services rendered for the promotion of an orthodox religious project. It is ‘diyat’ (compensation) for the thousands of Pakistanis killed in sectarian violence. Scores of thousands killed on the ‘jihad’ battlefields. Men and women killed all across the country in suicide bombings and attacks on places of worship. Children killed in schools. The minorities eliminated to the point where those who can afford to leave the country better do so before the next Frankenstein’s monster goes after them with impunity. Not to forget the countless law-enforcement and security personnel who laid down their lives trying to put some genies back into the bottle.
It is anybody’s guess how the country should ‘behave’ in a given situation.
We do not owe anyone anything in terms of future payments. All that is required of us is to ensure our present behaviour is in keeping with our past track record of servility and criminal neglect of our responsibility. The citizens just need to continue to evade income tax so that the leaders continue to undertake foreign begging tours. The leaders need to continue to methodically avoid creating an environment conducive for investment and jobs creation, so that the exodus to foreign lands — both legal and illegal — continues in pursuit of low-end jobs, and remittances keep supplanting exports. This way, the rulers and the ruled would remain beholden to their foreign benefactors.
Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, believes that one of the reasons why India showed restraint during the 2002 stand-off with Pakistan was that the Indian IT industry scrambled to relay to the government the fears of its international customers and the importance of stability. India, that had by then become an important player in the global supply chain of services and knowledge industry, was warned by the likes of General Electric that one slip-up and the outsourcing clients would leave, perhaps forever.
We can send the prime minister out as many times as we want, hold as many trade fairs and investment roadshows as we like — but so long as the only ‘right’ we want to exercise is to incite people through hate speech, bring them onto the streets, and paralyse life why wouldn’t even the domestic investor leave, let alone foreign investment be brought in?
One may have myriad disagreements with the higher judiciary, countless points on which you don’t see eye to eye with the military leadership, but people’s beliefs cannot be questioned.
State functionaries cannot be condemned for carrying out their duties and responsibilities, or persecuted for their real or perceived beliefs. Let this be a wakeup call for everyone, especially officialdom who thought it would be a good idea to ask government functionaries about their belief. We all think this could only happen to others, that is till they come for you. And come they will.
Since we owe a lot to divergent interest groups, it is anybody’s guess how the country is supposed to ‘behave’ in any given situation. For instance, in the backdrop of dire economic straits where we seem to be hanging on to every straw that drifts our way, how is the country supposed to react during the US sanctions against Iran?
The Afghan situation is another question mark. If like all murders in the past, Maulana Samiul Haq’s case becomes yet another mystery, should it be construed as another example of general ineptitude or could it be linked to the Afghan issue? After all, the maulana was known for his propensity to get caught between the Afghan Taliban and politics at home.
The writer is a poet and analyst.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018