Against the backdrop of mutual distrust and tension between Pakistan and the US, there are reports that Islamabad has not received ‘a single penny’ of promised aid from Washington during the year 2011. Although the US has, so far, reimbursed $8,654billion to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) since it became an ally in the war on terror, there is as high an amount as $2.5billion that is still outstanding. On an average, the US reduces 60 to 65 percent of the total billing. Under the circumstances, a Finance Ministry official has warned that the PPP-led government would have to devise a way to revive the moribund economy, without the prop of the American economic assistance. In case the amount is not forthcoming, self-reliance that means tightening of the belt across the board alone could, given the will, take the economy out of danger. Experience has, however, shown that to expect the rulers to give up their lavish and luxurious lifestyle at the expense of the state exchequer seems to be a tall order. It is the burden of maintaining the abnormally big government apparatus that is eating into official revenues. It is depressing, to boot, to learn from the officials concerned that no proposal for relying on our resources is on the table, nor is any being thought of.
The catch-22 is that the country not only lacks the wherewithal to put the economy back on the rails, but is also devoid of the basic infrastructure to make that possible. The debilitating electricity-gas scarcity the country is currently experiencing has not suddenly appeared. The corrupt and inept leadership at the helm of affairs has failed, over the past four years, to put in place viable projects that could have made up for the shortage when the crunch came. The non-starter rental power projects were patronised to gain personal benefits, depriving the nation of billions of rupees, without getting anything in return. Inexpensive hydel sources of power generation, like the ideally suited Kalabagh Bagh (KBD), were thrown in the bin. One would urge the authorities to dig KBD up and implement it on a war footing.
Nevertheless, the idea of soliciting financial assistance from the US in the new terms of agreement Islamabad is working out, should be discarded. As stated above, the leadership needs to have the will to take a decision in principle to tap the country’s own resources. The whole nation must be mobilised to take the necessary measures. One can hope that when it finds the rulers earnest enough in this respect, it would set aside its grievances against them and follow them. Otherwise, social unrest that the shortages and high rate of inflation have created will intensify and might even become uncontrollable.