Thursday, February 22, 2024
HomePakistanTime for Red Lines to be drawn

Time for Red Lines to be drawn

By Saeed A. Malik

Economic warfare to undermine an enemy has long been a practice. But over time this has improved in sophistication. Just how subtle and sophisticated it has become in our day, was revealed in “The Confessions of an Economic Hitman “, a book by John Perkins. What made this book especially instructive was the fact that Perkins himself was one such “hit man”. His experiences and knowledge on the subject therefore had more to offer than hearsay.

For the benefit of those who may not have read the book, the aim of a Hitman was to subvert the sovereignty of the targeted country. The standard operating procedure he followed was to meet the leader of such a country and offer him a project and a loan to execute the same. And to sweeten the deal with a bribe to the leader. This project and its financing was so structured, that the more it “progressed” the further into the morass of debt, the “beneficiary” country would fall. And when this country was well and truly up to its neck in debt, the lender country would move in to extract from its victim, its pound of flesh in terms of the concessions it wanted.

President Suharto of Indonesia is cited as one such leader who took the bribe offered, and ended up mortgaging many of his country’s national resource treasures to American corporations, and bankrupted his own country in the process. But if a leader preferred instead to stand with his national interests and refused to take the bait offered by a Hitman, he was assassinated, like President Aguilera of Ecuador and Omar Torrijos of Panama. But if assassination attempts did not work, as in the case of Saddam Hussain, a CIA asset gone rogue, whose intelligence services were extremely formidable, the army was sent in to remove him.

In the case of Pakistan, where the U.S had many interests, there was no need for America to send in its hitmen. There was no need for this because the infamous NRO had made corruption so respectable, that every leader here became a volunteer hitman against his own country. Each one of them,[ whether it was Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Mulla Fazal, Asfand yar Wali, Altaf Hussain, or Achakzai ] sold off whatever bit of Pakistan they got their talons into. In the first four years of the Zardari misrule, Pakistan’s total national debt of the preceding 60 years was more than doubled! This was a feat of dedicated theft seldom equaled anywhere. When Nawaz Sharif came to power, the total foreign debt of Pakistan was about 62 billion dollars i.e an average of nine hundred and fifty million dollars for each of Pakistan’s previous 65 years of independent existence. In Nawaz Sharif’s first four years, Pakistan has borrowed an average of four billion dollars per year i.e more than four times the annual average of the preceding 65 years! Whatever Zardari can do, obviously Nawaz Sharif can do better!

The single most powerful engine of this debt creation has been the insatiable greed and corruption of our leaders. The circle goes like this: pangs of unbearable hunger erupt in the bellies of the leaders; to assuage these they resort to plunder and stash their loot abroad; when the coffers are plundered, there is not enough money left to run the state; to bridge this gap the state takes loans, and the debts keep mounting. These debts will have to be repaid by you and me. Thus it is with our money that Nawaz Sharif has bought his flats in London, and Zardari his chateau outside Paris. But this does not end here. In 2018, you and I i.e Pakistan, has to begin the repayment of our debt, and we dont have the money to do so. This opens up multiple ways for the lenders to squeeze us, and take from us whatever they want on the pain of international sanctions. Our leadership has therefore potentially compromised the sovereignty of the country and undermined the state, without the enemy having had to fire a single shot! And Nawaz Sharif goes around teary eyed; blabbering, “but what have I done? Why have I been kicked out?” I’ll tell you Nawaz Sharif what you and your evil partnership with the likes of Zardari et al have done. You have soaked up all the wealth of our country and pushed increasing numbers of people to suicide, and many a young maiden into prostitution.

All these girls are to their parents, what Mariam is to you. And all the starving scrawny kids you see, if you ever get to see them at all, are to their loved ones, exactly what fat Hussain and Hassan are to you. Their reserves of fat have come off the bare bones of these other kids. You have sold out our future and stolen not only our money, but our hopes as well. For your crimes against the state, and against every individual in this state, you, and everyone like you deserves to be shot.  And that will be a mercy onto grasping wretches like you. The mega corruption of our leaders has directly fed the raging fires of militancy in our country as well. And this has been done in two ways. One, socio economic injustice in society will often lead to hard line reaction.

And second, ill-gotten money made by our political leaders has a nexus with the “for hire” terrorist groups. This became obvious when the PPP government in Sind did not allow Rangers’ operations to move into interior Sind, and PMLN government in Punjab did not allow these operations anywhere in the province except at a very peripheral level. The fear in both cases was that terrorists may fall into the hands of Rangers, and divulge the names of those whose political patronage and protection they enjoyed; while money trails from these criminals will lead right up to the highest in the land. And thus a situation came about that where the Army and Rangers were fighting, perhaps, the most lethal war for Pakistan, governments run by the two largest political parties in the land were aiding the enemy, and impeding the efforts of its own army!

Thus Nawaz Sharif and Zardari do not need to answer for corruption alone, they have to answer for treachery against the state on two broad counts i.e for hollowing out the state economically and financially and thus leaving the sovereignty of the state hostage to foreign powers, and also for directly aiding the enemy in Pakistan’s war against terror. It will remain an abiding regret with me that the Pakistan Army, the de facto gatekeepers of our national security, failed to see that unchecked mega corruption was ultimately a far more lethal threat to the nation’s security, than any number of enemy divisions massed on our borders. Mega corruption should therefore have been defined as a national security imperative much earlier in the day.

And what was equally regrettable was that in the war against terror, each time the momentum built up to break the backs of the terrorist networks, the army allowed this momentum to be broken because the political leadership did not allow these operations to reach their logical conclusion. And with this break in momentum, each time these operations had to be mounted a new, more and more blood and treasure had to be needlessly sacrificed.

Be that as it may. That was in the past. But before this present too becomes past, the President, the C.J, and the Army Chief must come together and draw a red line which no one should be allowed to cross. There is too much uncertainty plaguing Pakistan. Government was not much in evidence for most of the last four years anyway, except where national wealth was to be robbed. But now, with two prime ministers running and ruining the country, conspiracies are thick in the air and ever more instability is in the offing. Certified criminals are still heading institutions like NAB, FBR, SECP, our National Bank, the Finance Ministry, Railways, and indeed the Prime Minister’s office itself. Unless this was a matter of grave national importance, it would have drawn favourable comparison to any episode in the “Carry On” series for sheer hilarity.

This must not be allowed to go on. The President’s office should get all due assurances, and he must determine clearly at what point a national emergency is to be declared. Enough is enough. The time to draw the line is upon us.

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