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For the first time ever, talks of nuking an entire nation or a region were discussed openly and remorselessly

May 20 -June 02, 2002

The world has changed dramatically since our annual issue last year. It seems that 2001 begun and end with a single day- September 11. References to all activities be it social, cultural, economic, religious, commerce, trade today have but a single point of reference.

The kamikaze attacks destroyed more than the symbols of trade and military might of the US, in the US. They shattered the very fabric of the trust necessary for the peaceful coexistence of the human kind, the flow of global trade, the industrial, financial and service activities, the social and religious harmony among peoples. They divided the world like never before giving way to a deep mistrust nation against nation and people against people bringing destruction in their wake to thousands of people who had nothing to do with the dastardly acts in any way.

Industries and economies tumbled one after the other in both the developed and the developing world to the greater disadvantage of the later, the suppliers of raw materials to the former. The insurance and the aviation were the two worst hit sectors the former due to billions of dollars worth in claims and the later due to reluctance to travel by a shocked people, not only in the US but all across the world.

Retail sales, one of the major indicators of the economic activities on any given day, dropped drastically in the US as people preferred to stay indoors. This attitude in the most affluent nation and the home of consumerism in the world took, and still keeps on taking, a heavy toll on the rest of the world.

Muslims in general, and Islamic countries in particular, bear the biggest brunt of the ensuing hate. Everything Islamic were suddenly became suspicious be it the name, nationality, clothes, beard, or even a casual association. In short, the events of that tragic day helped US, and for that matter the developed West, discover a brand new enemy like the Communism of the past.

For the first time ever, talks of nuking an entire nation or a region were discussed openly and remorselessly. Media in the West carried articles advocating dropping the nuclear bombs on Islamic countries as well as on Muslim's holiest city Mecca to eradicate, once and for all, the so-called Islamic militancy. The US ever so occupied with finding a new bogey found in Islam a perfect enemy to discredit a people who make up 20 per cent of the global population. Highest authorities in the US administration pointed fingers at new 'centres of evil', the majority of them countries with dominant populations of Muslim, and minced no words to nuke them as the most appropriate thing to do. Never before since the advent of A-bomb such abhorring advocacies of mass destruction were discussed so openly and so remorselessly. The lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the resolve that they would not ever happen again seem to be dissolved into the thin air as if they never existed.

The writ of the US stands unchallenged in the world which has become completely unipolar since that fateful day. Certainly the world is pulling itself from the wreckage of the carnage but the ghost still seems to haunt it every day it wakes up.

Not that the events were the first acts of terrorism in the world. However, what had been different was this that this time around the victim was the US, the only worldly super power. The attacks bruised the ego of the super power which other wise always remained aloof to the acts of terrorism in other parts of the world feeling that it was invincible.

The world was given a singular choice by the US "You are either with us or you are not. If you are not you will be treated as an enemy." Who can dare to argue with a super power which has huge piles of weapons of mass destruction capable of blowing up the world many times over. The decision to support the US in its war against terrorism by all and sundry can be easily understood.

For the developing countries like Pakistan, which has been an US ally all along, becoming an important coalition partner made all the more sense. With an economy dependent on foreign loans enough to wipe out the country's annual budgets for good six years the country just can not afford to say 'no', particularly when the only choice offered to it was that a 'no' would put it back in the stone ages.

For the second time in over two decades, Pakistan became a front line state in the US' war against terrorism. This time around the enemy was not the Communist USSR, which has since been disintegrated, but the militant government of Afghanistan and the groups that it was supporting. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nine months later, today, the global economy is still coming out of the shadow of that infamous day. There are signs of improvement, even if in bits and pieces. Pakistan has earned the respect of the international community to play a role of the frontline against terrorism. The respect has resulted in rescheduling of a portion of massive foreign loans to provide it a breather in the short term. The US and European Union has removed certain trade barriers to make their markets more accessible to Pakistani goods, particularly the prized garments. The World Bank and IMF has become more accommodating in releasing loans. However, the slowing down of industrial activities and dropping exports will take time to neutralize. Meanwhile, Pakistan faces military threats from neighbouring India. But given the resolution, Pakistan will prevail.