Sep 17 - 23, 20

Over the last six decades a statement often heard is 'Pakistan is standing at cross' but neither of the successive governments has been able to change the status. While military dictators hold politicians responsible for the prevailing state, the complaint of elected governments has been 'we are not given a free hand to rule the country'. But the historical data shows that the country has made progress under the 'dictatorial' rule and elected representatives often create a mess that is not easy to clean.

Often it is said that rivalry among the political parties creates unrest in the country. However, a quick review of what has been happening in the neighborhood clear shows that most of the governments, especially of the Muslim countries have remained subservient to super powers, especially the United States. The super powers install and dislodge governments to achieve their vested interest. Be it rise and fall of Sdam Husain and Hosni Mubarak, assassination of Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia or handing of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, killing of Benazir Bhutto or blowing up of aero plane of Ziaul Haq all the events were stages to achieve certain objectives.

A quick review of three eras Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Perverz Musharraf, each spread over a decade, have one thing common, supported by the United States. Be it cold war or attempt to occupy Afghanistan, Pakistan's soil and military hardware and personnel were used establish hegemony of the United States in the region. For nearly three decades Pakistan has been fighting 'proxy war' of United States in Afghanistan. It is a unique experience that first Pakistan helped in creating Taliban phantom and now there is a pressured on Pakistan to demolish this might.

Since Pakistan has been used 'indiscriminately' a lot of military aid may have come to Pakistan but the country never achieved the status of 'strategically important partner of the United States. On his visit to India President never missed an opportunity to make India believe that it was an important business partner, but the mantra of 'do more' continues when it come to Pakistan-US relationship. When Pakistan stopped offering transit service for cargo pertaining to Nato, all sorts of tactics were used to get the decision changed.

Earlier India was offered 'nuclear technology for civilian purpose, in exchange for abandoning Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. While Pakistan's ruling Junta stopped buying Iranian oil, India refused to change its policy and continued to buy oil from Iran. On top of that India is busy in the construction of Chabahar port in Iran, road and rail link up to Central Asian countries passing through Afghanistan. This duality of US policy is clearly aimed at construction of an alternate route to undermine Pakistan's importance.

A brief mention of Raymond Davis can help in understanding the level of US pressure. Many experts have been saying for a long time that the United States has embedded its agents in Pakistan. Therefore, many of the strategic economic and political decisions in Pakistan are dictated from outside. Since the largest democracy finds it more comfortable to deal with dictators, even in the democratic countries one or a few persons enjoy the power. As long as these countries fulfill the objective flow of soft-term loans, grants and project related funds flow in but once the mission is accomplished the inflows dry out.

Since the flow of funds in regular for the projects deemed fit by the multilateral lenders, pace of development work is also high. During Zia's era military aid was in abundance but in the later period focus shifted to private sector that paved way for liberalization, deregulation and privatization. During Musharraf's era the focus remained on creating supply driven growth through reduction in lending rates. As the world was also experiencing 'stock market' boom, Pakistan also got minuscule share. However, as the 2008 global financial down turn started Pakistan also became low on priority list.

Brief reference to delay in finalizing barter trade with Iran and recent focus of USAID on Pakistan's energy sector needs some due diligence. There is pressure on Pakistan not to sell wheat to Iran and buy oil in exchange. Iranian president on his visit to Pakistan had also offered US$250 million assistance to fiancÚ the gas pipeline project, supply up to 1,000MW electricity and 80,000 barrels per day of deferred payment. However, none of these offers could be availed as yet.

USAID has become actively involved in Pakistan's energy sector but its priorities are very different from what the country needs immediately. The decision to allow creation of independent power plants (IPPs) had put the cart before the horse. Power plants may be inefficient but distribution companies are the real culprit as they manage to recover cost of 30 units only out of 100 units dispatched.

Multilateral financial institutions have also expressed inability to finance mega hydel projects, despite fully cognizant of the fact Pakistan needs to switchover from thermal to hydel generation and also to construct water storage facilities. Pakistan was required to add one mega hydel project in a decade. However, no such facility has been created after the completion of Tarbella Dam in 1976. One often gets a feeling that those opposing construction of mega dams in Pakistan are also dancing on the tunes of 'oil lobby'.

Some of the cynics also say that the delay in exploitation of Thar coals is also because of the influence of oil lobby. Once it was agreed that Pakistan will go for 'open pit' mining and establish 'mine mouth' power plants, demanding billions of dollars for 'coal gasification' is a move to sabotage the project.

A brief recap of some of the major shifts in policies clearly suggest that 'people from outside' control the strings. Funds can be made available for economically unviable projects but strategically import project can be killed in the name of 'global economic agenda'.