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A war at cost of Pakistan

Wahab Munir Qureshi

9/11 will always be remembered as a day which changed the course of
history. Pakistan joined the US in its so-called war against terror and
implicitly signed the treaty of gradual but assured destruction. It was
later reveled by Gen. (R) Musharraf, then President of Pakistan, how
United States of America threatened Pakistan to join coalition forces or
face dire consequences. He in his interview with CBS news show “60
Minutes” said that after the September 11 attacks the United States
threatened to bomb Pakistan if it did not cooperate with America’s war
campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He further elaborated that
the threat came from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage and
was conveyed to Musharraf’s intelligence director. “The intelligence
director told me that (Armitage) said, be prepared to be bombed. Be
prepared to go back to the Stone Age”.

Now ten years down the
road it’s worth analyzing how Pakistan has been affected economically
and militarily, both at the regional and international levels due to
this long war; the war against terror. Primarily, it was the economic
aspect which influenced decision makers more then anything else to join
the US in its world wide campaign against terror. It was estimated that
the cost of this war to Pakistan would be $2.669 billion dollars. This
was calculated on Pakistan’s assumptions that (i) the war that had begun
on 7th Oct 2001 would end swiftly by December 2001. (ii) Normalcy would
return on track from January 2001 (iii) The Taliban government would be
ousted and a low intense fight would continue, but this would not
affect the economy of Pakistan significantly (iv) the additional
increase in freight cargo and war premium would be removed. It is
obvious that the Pakistani ruling elite of that time failed to foresee
the actual implications of joining the US-led camp. The cost of war
which was estimated to be about $ 2.669 billon, actually reached up to $
67.926 billon; war was supposed to end within two months, but intense
fighting continued and is still underway, and it is not expected to end
anytime soon. Taliban who were supposed to be ousted by January 2001 are
still having shadow governments in 32 out of 34 provinces of
Afghanistan. Therefore, it’s important to analyze how Pakistan’s economy
has suffered over the years. This war has transformed a prestigious
Pakistani nation into a nation of the downtrodden, where scholars and
intellectuals spend most of their time and energies in accusing the
great powers of not contributing significantly in return for Pakistan’s
sacrifices in this war.

Now coming back to the economic losses
that Pakistan has abided in this war against terror. Pakistan has
already suffered almost $68 billion in losses – equivalent to almost
half of the country’s total debt. In financial year 2010-11, Pakistan
lost $17.83 billion, roughly equivalent to this year’s tax target,
reveals the Economic Survey of Pakistan. These losses do not include the
damages on account of a recent attack on Pakistan Navy base in Karachi,
destroying two surveillances aircraft; the P3C-Orion.

It was
the first time in the history of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations that
Pakistan had a friendly government on its second longest boarder, with
the Taliban in power. After joining the long war, Pakistan for the first
time felt the need to secure its western boarders, as US was occupying
Kabul and was transmitting instability into Pakistan. Pakistan was
forced to deploy its army and its first soldiers stepped into the
territory which has never been conquered and proven to be the grave yard
for two super powers. Billions of dollars have already been spent,
along with the loss of some 4000 army personnel’s lives in securing our
western borders. On the contrary, this money could have been utilized
for other productive purposes like generating electricity, building dams
etc which, in turn, could have boosted economic activities in the
country. In an IMF report, it is estimated that Pakistan has suffered
losses of more than trillion of rupees in “war against terror”. Opening a
new front and mobilization of Pakistan’s army to western boarders makes
the country’s eastern boarders more vulnerable to Indian hostilities
and aggression, which for now is deterred primarily due to Pakistan’s
outstanding nuclear and missile capabilities. Pakistan has had to deal
with a large number of pressing challenges in its military campaign in
Swat and Waziristan but has emerged successful despite lack of
resources. Now America is threatening Pakistan to start another military
operation against the alleged presence of Haqqani group in Pakistan.
While Pakistani officials have denied the presence of any such group on
its territory, Sirajj-ud-din Haqqani has also denied their presence in
Pakistan. Afghanistan is a safe heaven for those people who are working
against the American intervention in Afghanistan, as 32 provinces are
still under the rule of Shadow government of Taliban. Pakistan’s economy
has been damaged badly over to its involvement in the war on terror and
its dependence on foreign aid and services has increase. This reduces
its ability to become self sufficient and also forces it to make
compromises on its sovereignty, which is an integral part of modern
nation-state system. Money given to Pakistan in the name of aid doesn’t
even compensate one tenth of the losses it has incurred. US remains the
main provider of aid to Pakistan, under heads like Economic Assistance,
USAID, Military Assistance, Coalition Support Funds, Kerry Looger bill,
etc. But large parts of this aid remain conditional and are meant for
specific purposes which serve the interest of the US. Moreover, this aid
is distributed through NGOs, which shows the level of trust US has on
its front line coalition partner. In fact, this aid has proven to be
poisonous for Pakistan’s economy, its GDP drops from 4.3% to 2.3% in ten
years. Pakistan, by joining US led war on terror has entered into
hostile relations with domestic and regional actors. In other words, the
very act of becoming a front line ally of US, has jeopardized
Pakistan’s security and economic existence. This has led to the creation
of a law an order situation in Pakistan; deaths of around 35,000
innocent people, thousands wounded, and billions of dollars of property
losses.

Huge sums of money are spent to improve the internal
security of the country. CDA for example is planning to replace concrete
blocks with automatic road blockers in Islamabad. The project will cost
around Rs1.5 billion. Now, you may not come across any gates without
security guards, holding a gun in his one hand and a metal detector in
other; in front of walk through gate, behind security fence. This setup
is now quite common in the country, but was never witnessed before 9/11.
Country’s five star hotels are now converted into virtual bunkers with a
small army of security guards. Similar setups are witnessed in schools,
offices, factories and elsewhere. All these security measure need
money, man power, and time which could otherwise be utilized to advance
economic activities. Furthermore, these security measures make people
insecure and act as a hurdle for foreign investors and investment.

Now
it is quite obvious that Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror
has had detrimental consequences for Pakistan’s economy. If Pakistan had
decided to stay away from this long war as Iran did, then Pakistan
might have been in a better and stable economic position.
 

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