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Afghan War

Mixed Signals

The President of Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf, met US President Bush in New York last Sunday evening. Earlier, he had addressed the UN General Assembly. Given that after sending democracy into temporary limbo he became an international pariah a scant two years (and a month ago), for the Pakistani President the visit has been a triumph of sorts, for the personal risks he has taken in the last 60 days it brought only mixed rewards. In meetings en route in Teheran, Istanbul, Paris and London, Parvez Musharraf scored heavily in getting effusive support for Pakistan as a frontline state in the “war on terrorism”. But it was the last stop that counted. Under dire pressure from the frenzy building in the streets, the Pakistani intelligentsia had high hopes that the US would take concrete and tangible measures to reverse the Pakistani public perception that the US is friendly with Pakistan only when it has use for it, and then leaves Pakistan to fend for itself in paying the economic and political price for the privilege of that rather limited (by need) friendship.

As a symbol of tangible support, Pakistan needed debt relief that would be more like debt forgiveness, something that would more than offset the political and economic fallout being acutely felt in Pakistan because of the US attack on Afghanistan. Pakistan suffered economically (and continues to suffer) because we were then left in the lurch after the Afghan War in the 80s, sad experience shows that the present aid package announced for Pakistan is meagre compared to the economic hardships that the present Afghan War is now forcing on Pakistan. US$ 1 billion is hardly peanuts, but in the context of what we really need it may as well as be chicken feed. One must be grateful for small blessings however, for even the US$ 1 billion aid package that we did get will ameliorate to a small extent the burden of the war which is being increasingly felt in the streets and homes of Pakistan. In material terms it may be in lost man hours and in export manufacturing orders, in emotional terms the cost cannot even begin to be counted.

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