Pakistan: Pay-off for supporting US Back   Home  
The United States decision to lift the sanctions imposed after the 1998 nuclear tests will be welcomed in Pakistan, but the fact that it is being done in concert with similar action in respect of India, which was already in the pipeline, will reduce some of the euphoria. Besides there is no certainty that this gesture will be followed by something more comprehensive which will be commensurate with the high expectations in Pakistan for having placed ourselves in the firing line. A lesson must have been learnt from Ziaul Haq's show of cringing gratitude for the few scraps the Americans gave when the alms should have been much higher.

But, it is doubtful that the US will open the cornucopia of plenty for Pakistan as participation in the anti-terrorism coalition is mandatory not voluntary, which reduces the size of the carrot. President Musharraf has already made public the circumstances in which he had to acquiesce to Islamabad's role in the exercise to capture Osama Bin Laden. The nation must be told not to expect too much from the latest alliance with the US and the benefits, if any, should preferably be of a negative nature, that we will not be made to suffer too much collateral damage. There can be no doubt that it will be a long drawn-out punishing conflict as the Americans try to mop up the centres of stiff Afghan resistance.

Another fear harboured is that as and when the engagement ends and the Americans pull out, Pakistan may be left to look after millions of more Afghans who are unwilling to go back to their country because it is even more devastated than before. The US, which is preparing to undertake political and strategic engineering in Afghanistan, has a poor record of clearing up the debris after completing its task. This should not be allowed to happen and Islamabad must extract an assurance that there will be no pieces left to be picked up.

It is for this reason that there is much concern whether President Musharraf was able to get a word in sidewise during his talks with the American leaders about Islamabad's wish list. The lifting of the various sanctions is the least part of what is looked forward to, as what is infinitely more important is eliminating some of the problems that are a drain on the country's resources and effort. Pakistan will be better placed if it can direct all its energy and attention towards development untroubled by the need to raise a formidable war machine and be in a permanent state of battle-readiness.
Published in Jung, Pakistan