By MOHAMED H. ZAKARIA, published in Arab News – Aug 1st, 2011
Pakistan, a land of lost opportunities
We are fighting a war on terror; this has been the slogan of successive Pakistani leaders since Gen. Zia-ul-Haq dragged Pakistan into the Afghan war against the Russians.
The present Pakistani government is using the same slogan despite the fact that the world knows the reality of the war on terror. If fighting a few thugs warrants such massive preparations and operations that have taken a heavy toll on the country, then we ought to revise our policy toward India, for which the entire defense structure was built and being maintained at the cost of the nation’s lifeline. So far the war on terror has cost Pakistan $68 billion, and the lives of 32,000 innocent citizens and 3,500 security personnel. Leaving aside the colossal indirect and long-term losses, the country has been pushed back at least 100 years. Pakistan, once a leading industrial country ahead of the so-called Asian Tigers, is now reeling behind even some African countries.
Most people now know that the Iraq and Afghan wars were ploys, a $4-trillion mistake — a disastrously counter-productive one — by the American leadership.
Pakistan’s troubles started in 1971 and kept multiplying especially after Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s decision to involve Pakistan in the Afghan war. This triggered the destruction of Pakistan and its social fabric and that still continues.
Pakistan has missed countless opportunities due to its poor leadership. Former US President Richard Nixon’s efforts in changing relations with China (with the help of Pakistan), not least to contain a potential nuclear threat but also, by taking advantage of the adversarial Sino-Soviet relationship, to open up another front in the cold war with the Soviet Union, resulted in bilateral trade of at least $10 trillion and counting, and what Pakistan got in return was Soviet enmity — that is still biting Pakistan and has wrecked Pakistan’s skull, a hostile neighbor like Afghanistan and an ungrateful Uncle Sam. And what Pakistan got in return for bringing China out of isolation is anyone’s guess. What a wise strategy the Pakistani leadership has adopted, continuous nonstop confrontation with immediate neighbors and friendship with Uncle Sam who is 5,000 miles away! Pakistanis seems to have a very short memory: The secret meeting that was arranged or brokered by Pakistan between Henry Kissinger and the Chinese leaders in 1969 was so secret that until this moment no one in Pakistan knows the exact date of Kissinger’s departure from Islamabad to China — a secret flight that cost Pakistan its eastern part (East Pakistan). The disintegration of Pakistan in the 1971 war was a joint operation of Russia and India. While East Pakistan was burning, Uncle Sam was fiddling.
Our arrogance and ignorance made us lose opportunities in Saudi Arabia. A big part of the basic infrastructure of Saudi Arabia in early 1960s and 1970s was built and laid by Pakistanis and Pakistani companies. Senior positions at the Saudi central bank and Saudi Aramco were held by Pakistani executives who have now been replaced by mostly people from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Our political leadership and corporate leaders are not bothered after having lost opportunities in Saudi Arabia, now a G20 country and the world’s largest oil producer. It’s not too late yet; I wish our leaders open their eyes and realize where they are leading this country and the nation of 190 million. We should start sincere dialogue with India and seek Indian help to fight terrorism, especially in Afghanistan, and look at India as a potential market for our products. I am sure Indians would love to have a friendly neighbor like Pakistan. We should take full advantage of our deep-rooted relationship with China and Saudi Arabia, and find ways to include India in this triangle. We need a temporary separation from Uncle Sam, if not a full divorce as Uncle Sam is not in a position to help Pakistan economically or financially for the time being. Pakistan doesn’t need any military help from the US either. Uncle Sam has a different agenda — the agenda that has already bankrupted the country’s economy and is forcing it to default like England defaulted last century due to the wars it fought.
— Mohamed H. Zakaria is the CEO of Saudi Steel and senior vice president of Ahmed Salem Bugshan Group.