Jalees Hazir The swift passage of another lollipop bill through both the houses of US Congress last week has thrown up two interlinked debates here in Pakistan; about the Pak-US relationship and about the dynamics of foreign aid from the 'free world in general. Because of the critical significance these issues have come to assume in todays Pakistan, an open debate on the topics in the media is positive in essence. A dose of reality would make it perfect; the larger reality of the US foreign policy within which the US-Pak equation is one among many, and the reality of skeleton-like African children with hopeless eyes bred by generations of white-mans aid. For a country that is responsible for actually manufacturing our biggest monsters, the US has a lot to answer for. Yet it puts on the robes of righteous perfection, dictating the direction we must take. As if it did not will into existence and actively equip armies of fanatic militants in our midst to counter the communist threat in Afghanistan. Not too long ago, as a part of the larger Cold War game-plan, madrassahs funded by its Middle Eastern middlemen acted as hatcheries for the so-called mujahideen programmed to fight the free worlds war. More recently, lying through its teeth, the US has created new wars in the world. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are killed as it chases ghosts of weapons of mass destruction and Osama Bin Laden in distant lands, creating profitable economies for its shady industries back home; the military-industrial complex that destroys and construction conglomerates that reconstruct; private security agencies and the secured oil and gas corporations. Billions are added to the CIA budget. While understanding its real role in Pakistan, it would be foolish to ignore what the US does elsewhere in the world. The Kerry-Lugar lollipop aims to do just that, blind us to the wider role of the US in the world. We are expected to be grateful for this magnanimous gesture by the new empire that has perfected the art of creating illusions. Its loose change of $1.5 billion is projected as a fortune. The five-year promise of funding social development is supposed to convince us of its long-term commitment to Pakistan and its people. In our gratitude, we must not question the socially disruptive projects that this aid will sponsor and their effectiveness. We must not challenge the priorities set for us and the imperialist roadmap for our progress. As if it was not enough that most of the aid money is used to feed the enterprise of social development and its multifarious NGOs, consultants and contractors, additional aid money will be channelled to an elaborate establishment being put into place to monitor these projects. Given the voluminous well-researched evidence of the uselessness of such aid, it is surprising that we still must debate on its pros and cons and not see it for the dangerous joke that it obviously is. Other than providing leverage to the US to fashion our society in a manner that suits its short-sighted agenda, it provides both an excuse and a cover for its meddlesome involvement in the region. We hear about a policy-shift under Obama and a new emphasis on winning the hearts and minds, but little has changed on the ground. There are more troops in Afghanistan, and the deceptive war mongering has intensified. Whether it is Irans nuclear programme or the Quetta Shura, the US is busy inventing new ghosts to chase, furthering its dubious and destructive agenda in the region. The so-called independent US media, that acts more like a lapdog of its corporations, provides fictitious flesh to these ghosts. It goes into over-drive to present calculated speculation as real threats. It actually takes more than firepower, aid money and deception to win hearts and minds. Entire books have been written on how the US has created havoc in the world. How it funded covert operations to create instability in countries and change regimes that do not fall in line. How funds were raised for those operations through narcotics trade. How it has been too eager to go to war on flimsy pretexts and concocted evidence. Other than hollow pronouncements, there is little to suggest that things are being changed for the better by the new US administration. The high moral ground that the US would like to claim on democracy and human rights is scandalously compromised by contradictions in its policies; it looks the other way where it suits its interests and comes down hard on countries it wants to bully into submission. It is no secret that the US foreign policy is propelled by narrowly defined interests of its powerful corporations and all its ideological fervour ends where the business interests of its corporations begin. As far as this recent act of charity towards Pakistan is concerned, we should be clear that it is only meant to ensure that we keep singing the praises of the new empire as it broadens the scope of death and destruction in the region. It is actually a test of the representativeness of our newfound democracy. A representative Parliament would never accept this devious favour. Instead of bending over backwards to accept the promises of this petty cash, the Pakistan government needs to look at the larger picture and re-evaluate its relationship with the US. To pave the way for an early US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan urgently needs to work with other countries that share common boundaries (Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China) with the war-torn occupied country. These are the countries that are directly affected by instability in Afghanistan and have most to lose if the US and its NATO allies are allowed to continue their mission in the country. An impression has been created as if all hell will break loose if the occupation in Afghanistan comes to an end. In fact, a closely coordinated effort by Afghanistans immediate neighbours, countries that can actually control what goes in and what comes out of the land-locked country, can fill the welcome vacuum created by the withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan. This might be the only way to stabilise the region and to avoid bigger wars. The writer is a freelance columnist.