It’s the dollar, stupid!


Khalid Saleem

The dollar and its formidable rise vis-à-vis the rupee is very much in the headlines of late. In the process, this development appears to have shaken the very foundations of the economy of this hapless land. The mighty dollar has always had an uncanny fascination for the people of the Land of the pure. It would appear that their whole world revolves around this mighty currency. We are not the only ones in this crowd. Of all people, even our strategic partners (?), the high and mighty Americans too are wedded to the idea that the dollar is the end all, be all of all that matters.
While on the subject of the dollar, why not allude to some other scams of a similar hue. One would crave the indulgence of the reader to go back some years in recent history. One is reminded of the leading article that made it to the front page of the ‘revered’ New York Times, some years ago. The writer had spun the yarn – if that is the word one wants – that the United States had spent more than five billion dollars “in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistan military effort against militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban”. The money in question had apparently been provided through a programme known as “Coalition Support Funds” – a programme that was tailored to reimburse Pakistan for “conducting military operations to fight terrorism”. It would appear that our American handlers got worried that their hand on the rein was not tight enough.
Looking over the shoulder once again, one notices that in the tug of war between the two ‘strategic partners’, reference to the wretched dollar keeps creeping in. Blame it on naiveté, but one had somehow continued to hold on to the tattered shreds of the belief that we had joined the “war on terror” for some purpose more honorable than the quest for the measly dollars it yielded. One had been glibly fed the justification that the infamous U-turn had something more to it than mere mercenary considerations. The New York Times divested our denizens of their fig leaf by making an issue of the fact that the US administration and its military officials were peeved by the realization that the American money was being diverted to help finance ‘systems’ designed for “causes” other than the liquidation of Al Qaeda and/or the Taliban. The Coalition Support Funds programme was apparently intended to be strictly American objective centric. Where, if anywhere, then (one may justifiably wonder) does the national interest of this hapless land figure?
One is open to correction if one is wrong, but did the aforementioned not appear to indicate (horror of horrors) that Pakistan’s offer to join the War on Terror had (to put it mildly) mercenary overtones? While we were miffed at the realization that the Americans felt that they were not happy with the bang per buck that they are getting, but were not at all sorry about the wasted years that this blessed land was led up the garden path. Some time down the memory lane, we were informed that we had told the Americans that if they were not satisfied with the services rendered they were most welcome to take their business elsewhere. This is neither here nor there.
Looking at it from another perspective, does the aforementioned not give the reader the queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach that we have ‘something’ to sell and that we have been more than willing to re-order our national priorities merely for a fistful of dollars? Whither, then, all the sacrifices made by the nation over the past years for a cause other than what the common man had been led to believe? And what did all this get the nation into; other than years of turmoil in which the fabric of national harmony was torn asunder? The common man – the ultimate fall guy for all the machinations of the powers that be – has been left holding the baby. What is more, he is being asked to believe that it is “our war”.
In the interest of what is euphemistically known as research, one harks back to some other past editions of the venerable New York Times. Digging a bit deeper, we learned that, “President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan”. What does this signify? That this country of some two hundred million souls was destined to be left to the mercy of the United States cavalry? That the common man in the Land of the Pure was to be held in ransom in return for all those dollars of assistance that the Bush administration had doled out ostensibly as “assistance” to our armed forces. The two Obama administrations carried on in the same vein. The advent of the President Trump can only be expected to bring more of the same, if not worse!
The man in the street in this hapless land, meanwhile, is condemned to worry about where his next roti is to come from, while our motley band of planners make merry on the surfeit of dollars that they claimed had descended on the country in the form of ‘support’ and/or ‘investment’. And what happened to the statistics that were earlier happily showered on the land? Need one repeat that man does not live by statistics alone? And the same goes for dollars. Meanwhile, the powers that be would do well to remember the dictum: there exist causes more exalted than the mere quest for the measly dollar! Or is that akin to talking out of turn?
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.