What is it that dollar has? | By Khalid Saleem


What is it that dollar has?

DOLLARS have always had an uncanny fascination for the residents of the Land of the Pure. Maybe it is because of our tendency to slavishly copy the Yankees in all they do or undo.

Or, perhaps, this is because dollars can buy all that is high and mighty in this blessed land. The Americans too somehow believe that it is the dollar that is the end all, be all of all that matters.

Not to forget that we have constant hullabaloos about the illegal foreign currency (mainly dollars) transfer scams.

One could talk about other scams also related to dollars. One would crave the indulgence of the gentle reader to go back a wee bit in recent history.

May one refer to the leading article that made it to the front page of the ‘revered’ New York Times, a few years back?

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 was apparently 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.

Once again in the recent tug of war between the two ‘strategic partners’, reference to the wretched dollars keeps creeping in.

What is one to make of this? 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 touts 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 obviously intended to be strictly American objective centric.

Where then, one may justifiably wonder, does national interest of this hapless land figure?

One is open to correction if one is wrong, but did the aforementioned not appear to indicate that Pakistan’s offer to join the fight against terror had (to put it mildly) mercenary overtones?

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 the nation was led up the garden path.

All we told the Americans was 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. Now, does this not give rise to the rather queasy feeling that we have ‘something’ to sell and that we would be quite 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”. And now back to some other editions of the venerable New York Times.

We learned further 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 arrears of Pakistan”.

What does this signify? That this country of over hundred and sixty million souls is now to be left to the mercy of the United States cavalry?

That the common man in the Land of the Pure is 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.

What hurts most is that administration after administration rather than improvising consider it best to continue carrying on in the same vein.

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 remittances and/or ‘investment’.

And what happened to the statistics that were earlier happily showered on the land by this very set of individuals in order to put the people to sleep?

Need one repeat that man does not live by statistics alone? And the same goes for dollars! And let it not be forgotten: there exist causes more exalted than the mere quest for dollars.

If only our happy dollar-chasers would care to give the matter deeper thought. They might well come to the conclusion that there are things in this world that are mightier than the dollar.

And not only mightier but also more desirable and easier to grasp. If only man were to grasp this very simple logic rather than stick to the old and hackneyed one.

Some hope though!

— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.


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