Shireen M Mazari First it was the begging bowl the leaders took around the globe; then there was all that hype over the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) who would turn on the dollar tap for our democratic regime; and finally we were supposed to welcome the "wonderful" Kerry-Lugar Bill which still has to become law. These begging tactics and dreams of dollars flowing in have come to nought and now the man who constructed our annual budget on false expectations, Minister Shaukat Tarin, has been reduced into whining that the US aid is turning into a trickle. The new, supposedly more understanding Obama Administration has informed Pakistan that it will provide only $174 million for budgetary support 2009-10 from the $1.5 billion annual assistance promised under the Kerry-Lugar bill. For the rest of the $1.5 billion, some is earmarked for the expansion of the US embassy and what is eventually left over will be money the Pakistani government will have no control over. Instead the US will disburse that amount through its own institutional mechanisms as it sees fit Now, even if one were to ignore the massive purchases of land by the US, the questionable manner in which the expansion of the US embassy is taking place and the threatening covert activities of the US and its "partner in crime" Blackwater; the unregistered comings and goings of US personnel on chartered flights; we would still find it difficult to see the whole aid disbursement issue as anything other than a sign of US gradual occupation. It is no wonder we have the term AfPak: Afghanistan they control through direct occupation loosely premised on a UN resolution; Pakistan they are occupying as a result of willingly ceded sovereignty by the past and present leadership. This becomes even more evident when we recall that the FODP have demanded that the government establish a Trust Fund before September 25 when the FODP meet again. This Fund will take away any faade even of control the Pakistan government may want to show over aid disbursement in the sensitive areas of NWFP and Balochistan. The US wants to spend the aid earmarked for this Trust Fund without any involvement of the government of Pakistan and all the Pakistanis can now do is moan and whine about having a "joint platform" for the relevant aid spending This is the height of despair because the prime minister is prepared to allow Washington to actually be the dominant actor in this "joint platform" and identify the areas for capacity building in the public sector All the PM wants in exchange is some faade of "joint-ness" So we are ready to surrender partial sovereignty in any case to the US for the trickle of assistance that may eventually come. And we do not know what the final conditionalities attached to the Kerry-Lugar bill will be It is no wonder then that the prime minister has literally been pleading, nay begging (how often that word now comes up in connection with the rulers and their foreign "friends") the US to disburse the aid through government agencies. When he is not doing this, he is imploring the US to expedite the passage of the aid bills in the first place - after all not only is there the Kerry-Lugar bill but also the ROZs bill which again links Pakistan with Afghanistan. The Americans are hell-bent on reducing us to the chaos and dependency of Afghanistan and our ruling elite seems to have acquiesced to the same. That is why no action has been taken against the registered abuse of Pakistanis by US marines in the heart of the capital even where an FIR has been registered. That is why the US ambassador can, without any shred of evidence to prove her point, level serious allegations against Pakistani columnists critiquing the increasingly menacing US presence in the country. That is why no one can question how or why the US has allegedly bought land in Petaro, Sindh (500 acres by some accounts) and in other parts of Pakistan. One patriotic Pakistani informed this scribe the US had wanted to buy her husband's land on the outskirts of Faisalabad to set up a "training" facility and there are question marks over a mysterious facility in Rawat. And let us not forget Tarbela and the set up there or the continuing use of bases in Balochistan. In fact, if we look at a map of Pakistan and plot out the areas of US presence, both covert and overt, a web-like structure is created within which are located all our sensitive and strategic assets. Beginning from the coast to Shamsi base on the Balochistan-Iran border, to Bandari in interior Balochistan; to Gharo (and perhaps Petaro); to Faisalabad (still a maybe), Rawat, Islamabad and further to Tarbela and Peshawar; and it requires no genius to understand the Americans far-reaching physical tentacles across this country. Add to this the free run of the country they seem to have been granted and it is hardly surprising to find they are not prepared to give Pakistan any control over the aid they may eventually disburse. Are there alternatives to this willing capitulation before the US? Certainly there are. Of course the most desirable would be to have the government distance itself from the US, seek alternative sources of financial inputs like compelling the ruling elite to bring back their money stored abroad and ending corruption. But that hardly seems viable. An easier alternative is simply to realise that the US is not handing us charity but is luring us with promises of aid because it needs our support in Afghanistan. So we do not have to actually lay ourselves prostrate before them but can retain our dignity even as we accept their aid with all the strings that are always attached. There is something sickening in the desperation the leadership seems to be showing in laying its hands on the green bucks. It is this that the US is taking full advantage of as it seeks to bring Pakistan into the ambit of neo-colonialism. Too bad for the Americans and our leadership, the Pakistani nation will not accede to this design. They are already proving to be the main stumbling block in the US design for Pakistan.