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Pakistan’s economic comeback

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THESE are trying times for Pakistan. This nation has been through so much turbulence and turmoil that one does not even know where to start. Besides the chaotic socio-political issues that plague Pakistan, the citizens of this state suffer a depressing destabilised environment and a broken economy particularly for the past 3 years Pakistan is in the midst of a battle for its very identity and soul, this battle cannot be won if the citizenry are struggling to even make ends meet . The most important factor in Pakistan today is the economy and even though the world is in recession, more unorthodox signs of recovery are showing themselves for Pakistan. To accurately judge Pakistans recovery, the nature of its economy must be understood, historically speaking. Pakistan is not a normal economy, we have a purely political economy, our economy flourishes every time our interests are in line with the interests of the West (primarily the United States) and our economy suffers whenever we go against their interests or are isolated This is the dominant trend in Pakistani history. During Ayub Khan’s reign when the US was developing Iran and Pakistan as allies against the formidable Soviet Union and its ally India. Pakistan was providing the US with air bases from which to launch its U2 spy planes deep into Soviet territory and in return aid flowed into Pakistan and Industry flourished.
Then during the Zia-ul-Haq era, Pakistan was a front line state in the 10-year war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Americans knew that only through Pakistan can they effectively organize, train and supply resistance forces against the USSR. In exchange, Pakistan received billions of dollars of aid, was encouraged to develop its security apparatus and the Pakistani nuclear program was over looked by the President Ronald Regan.
The Pakistani economy grew constantly ignoring the war in the North. During the early Musharraf era after his political coup in 1999, the then US president Bill Clinton famously refused to shake the hand of Chief executive Musharraf. However soon after the events of 9/11 2001, Under President George W Bush, United States interests required Pakistani cooperation against the Taliban and Pakistan required US financial aid. This well-established relationship once again led to a boom in the Pakistani economy this time an unprecedented one especially in the stock exchange and real estate markets during Musharraf’s first 2 years. The macro economic indicators are similar, high unemployment, high inflation, low foreign exchange reserves added with high political instability and friction between the various institutions of state and finally the economic damage caused by the worlds worst flooding in decades has been a burden. However, after years of turmoil, things are settling down, the PPP government is adamant to complete its term and set a political precedent in Pakistan. After years of negotiations, aid from the United States and other allies is starting to make its way into Pakistan. The instability in the Pak-US relations also seems to be withering away slowly. During President Obamas recent visit to India, he refused to criticize Islamabad as was expected from the Indians.
The statements made about the ‘cancer of radicalization in the northern areas was nothing new, and US officials have been making similar statements for years. Obama instead reiterated that Pakistan is an enormously important country, not just for the region but also for the world, and the Indians must deal with that fact. The United States has already pledged and delivered considerable amounts of aid for civilian and military projects in Pakistan to the tune of almost $3 billion a year including long-term infrastructural investments such as the Reconstruction and Opportunity Zones (ROZs) and the very recent $375 million wind power project in the Gharo Corridor. The US has also given Pakistan over $500 million for flood relief. The most important factor to consider is not the monetary value of the aid received (albeit is considerable) or the fact that the US constantly asks us to do more.
It is that despite the fact that Pakistan has such a negative image problem especially in the US, and handing out billions of tax dollars during a time of domestic austerity and economic recession to a country some Americans consider hostile and would no doubt prove politically unpopular, the US government and politicians still do it.
When the US president visits Pakistan in March, it will be made sure that all differences and misunderstandings are cleared prior to his arrival, with increased foreign assistance, a stable government and the interests of Pakistan and the US in line once again and the resulting confidence in Pakistani State.
The Pakistani economy is compelled to recover.
(The writer is Chairman Jinnah Rafi Foundation)