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.
Previous aid packages , worth over a total of $15.4 billion between 2002 and 2009, for Pakistan have been liberally diverted to military aid against India with full knowledge of donors “¦
The problem is indeed gigantic and requires a bold scheme like the post-war American Marshall Plan for the battered and beaten state of Germany. Almost forgotten now a days, the package for Germany had one binding condition that Germany would not engage in any re-armament and not raise a defence force even remotely capable of attacking any other state.
Pakistan’s 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, to ward of the Soviet threat. That aid became nakedly weaponised in the 1980s campaign to oust the Russian forces from Afghanistan during the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq and his jihadi forces recruited both from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Needless to remind the donors of equipment and cash, the tanks and bombers were pressed into wars and skirmishes with India, for which they were not intended, at least officially. The donors have traditionally turned a blind eye to the actions of their faithful ally over the years.
This time, however, there are loud noises being made by the 20-strong group of donor nations including Britain, Japan and China, over conditions attached to the new $5 billion Marshall Aid package so that only a specific portion would be used for military purposes and that too specifically for fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan while the rest of the aid would be seen, indeed monitored, to be used for rebuilding of educational and economic infrastructure and rehabilitation of the people displaced by terrorism.
How much of that package, when finalised and delivered, will be used as Martial Aid against India is anybody’s guess. Past history points to a lot of cautionary, indeed questionable, record. A just released US Congressional report reveals how much armament Pakistan bought between 2005 and 2008.
A whopping $4.5 billion worth of arms including F-16 fighters and over hundred 155 MM artillery guns, were sought from the USA. The orders included thirty-six latest 50/52 F-16C jets and air-to-air missiles and bombs worth $ 640 million. The arms deal also provided for mid-life modification of its earlier F-16 A/B fighters. Islamabad also sought 115 M109A5 155 MM self- propelled howitzers worth $52 million, the guns it did not have during the Kargil conflict in 1999, making Pakistan the biggest buyer of US arms worth over $3.5 billion in 2006. The controversy raging about General Musharraf’s recent interview to a Pakistani TV channel that Pakistan deployed whatever armament it had where ever it was needed, clearly implying its use against India which it has always regarded as target number one. Musharraf’s denial of any specific reference to India in the TV interview cuts no ice. Such denials are the normal fare of all politicial players but they only confirm what is cleverly implied but not literally spelt out.
Previous aid packages , worth over a total of $15.4 billion between 2002 and 2009, for Pakistan have been liberally diverted to military aid against India with full knowledge of donors and there is no reason to believe that a very substantial part of the latest “Marshall Aid” plus a proposed $7.5 billion under Senators Richard Lugar- John Kerry plan, cleared by the Senate, will not be used as “Martial Aid” against India.