National Intelligence Estimates are documents emanating from the US federal government, authoritative assessments of the Director of National Intelligence that express the coordinated judgements of the group of 16 US intelligence agencies prepared for policymakers. Let us take one prepared in mid-October on Pakistan. It concluded that what passes for government in this country is too weak to deal with the challenges within its borders and quoted a Washington Post op-ed: "Pakistan is becoming something alarmingly close to a failed state. And that could have disastrous consequences for the United States, NATO and Afghanistan's struggle to hold back its own Taliban insurgency." Its multitude of problems - "an accelerating economic crisis that includes food and energy shortages, escalating fuel costs, a sinking currency and a massive flight of foreign capital accelerated by the escalating insurgency" - led to the neat summary on the state of Pakistan that it has "no money, no energy, no government." "Very bleak," "very bad," and "on the edge" were three applicable phrases which it is difficult to discount. That there is no money has been confirmed by all, and what with the dithering over Plans A, B and C by our replacement unelected banker de facto finance minister we seem to be running out of time. The members of the neo-party of the people, had they the prescience or the will to do something, should have seen what was looking ahead of them on the economic front and attempted to do something about it. But they frittered away their time on domestic political tussles, squabbling with their coalition partner, making and reneging on promises and covenants, unseating the sitting president so that co-chairman Asif Zardari could move in to the chandelier encrusted Aiwan-e-Sadar, and ensuring that the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan could not be reinstated and thus pose a threat to that ignominious bit of legislation, the NRO. Forgetting that countries have only allies or enemies, but no friends, the neo-democratic Pakistan relied on its traditional partners - The Kingdom, China and the US - to come to its aid and bail it out. But that did not happen, unsurprisingly. What donor in its right mind would fork out billions (the US has poured in over USD10 billion since 9/11 and where has it all gone?) to a country like Pakistan. This is a country known, for far too long, to be run by kleptocrats whose acquisitive skills know no bounds. The combined assets of the leadership that lie in foreign countries, if brought back, would work wonders towards the bailout scenario. But then, their commitment to this country uncertain. Of late, there are almost daily calls in the press for these people to lead by example, come clean, and invest in Pakistan rather than in foreign climes. But it will not happen. A September NYT story had it that when Zardari was asked how his government should foot the bill for price supports for the wheat farmers of Punjab, he swiftly quipped, "Print the notes." One sure sign that there is no money and that times are super-dire is the decision by Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani to shelve the proposed highly unpopular scheme to build a luxurious gigantic new GHQ on land grabbed in Islamabad which is estimated to cost a cool Rs 60 billion. The general is a wise man. With his army's vast business interests and its leading industrial role he has no option but to watch the economy and its accelerating crisis. Meanwhile, the politicians are showing no such wisdom. They continue to travel the world, they waste time and money by convening joint sessions of Parliament which few parliamentarians care to attend, they continue on blithely with their high-living style - heaven knows what goes through the minds of the potential donors who are entertained in palatial buildings, in gilded plushy drawing rooms, ferried around Islamabad in gas-guzzlers or bullet-proof Mercedes, told that the country is bankrupt and tendered the proverbial begging-bowl. No energy, we all know too well. But when those responsible to the masses have more generators than can be counted, they are not particularly pushed. The previous regime is undoubtedly much to blame for the current lack, but then there are few signs that what passes for government intends to do something to alleviate the people's and the country's plight. As for no government, well that is glaringly obvious. Neither is there an opposition, which makes things worse. There are ministries galore, half of which could be abolished (Information for one) and many of which could be amalgamated. The ministers are helpless, as, apart from the economic woes, they are bound by the whims of one man, the head of state and de facto head of government. His coalition partners are with him for what they can get, not what they can give, and two coalition leaders are out of the country - one permanently and one for an undetermined period while the Taliban rage on the Frontier and Pakistan fights its War On Terror. The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk