Almost since its birth Pakistan has been lucky in finding friends who have been generous with supplies of oil, armaments and hard currency to keep its ruling classes live life in style and the country at large afloat. Successive governments, both civil and military, have been able to find munificent donors like Saudi Arabia and the USA to fund their fond ambitions and pet projects, the former in the name of Islamic solidarity and the latter in the fight against communism or in defence of ‘democracy’ world over.
Pakistans history over half a century and more has been characteristically different. American aid was avowedly militaristic throughout the SEATO, CENTO and Cold War era with the supply of all kind of war materials, including Patton Tanks and F-16 bombers”¦
The rulers, while fighting for survival or internal dominance, have often turned to the masters of their purse strings not just for money but overtly or covertly for advice, arbitration and asylum. The ultra frequent visits by prevailing and ousted rulers for Umrah (visit to the holy shrines) in Saudi Arabia and for money and international recognition to America are symbolic of Pakistan’s abiding special relationship with the two countries.
Tracing the march of the Saudi connection, a columnist in the Pakistani daily, The News, of the Jang group, writes: “Deposed and discredited Pakistani leaders can always bank on being rescued by the Saudis. First it was Nawaz Sharif, he was plucked from Musharraf’s clutches, and now it is Musharraf himself. Hopefully, Mr Zardari will also be able to bank on the Saudis if things go wrong.” Blaming the leaders for bringing the country to such a pass, Zafar Hilaly, a former Pakistani Ambassador, adds: “Grovelling for Saudi dole outs, be it discounted oil or F-16s, we dance to the tune of the piper in Riyadh or Washington.”
Not deflected by such perceptions of their role, the Americans and Saudis have launched yet another rescue package for their friend currently in dire straits. It is being dubbed ” Marshall Aid for Pakistan” on the lines of Marshall Aid for post-war Germany nearly 65 years ago. The German experiment proved eminently successful in pulling the country out of the ruins of war and putting its economy back on its feet, indeed making it the power house of Europe.
An international group – Friends of Democratic Pakistan – led by America and Saudi Arabia which held its conclave in Turkey a few weeks ago, variously pledged to help out the cash-strapped country engaged in a bloody war against home grown Taliban militants on its own soil along the Afghanistan border. It has envisaged a $5 billion package to stabilise the economy and polity of the country.
Half the money is believed to have been pledged to rebuild homes, roads , bridges, schools and hospitals damaged or destroyed in the military’s operation “Rah-e-rast” in SwatValley. Once known as the Paradise Valley, its luckless population has suffered massive displacement following the disastrous peace deal struck by the Islamabad authorities with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders to buy peace in exchange for “sharia” rule in the valley. The surrender of arms by the Taliban militants as the other portion of the deal was, as everybody knew, a non-starter. The resultant mess has left Swat valley alone with the problem of rehabilitation of nearly a million “internally displaced persons (IDPs), with another million IDPs to be resettled in neighbouring districts of the Frontier province.