Pakistan’s decision to go nuclear on 11 May 1998, was built on the twin premises of a ‘Declared Capability and Ambivalence”. The main purpose during exhausting discussions in the planning rooms was to usher an era of sustainable economic growth and devote the future to reorganization of the armed forces. The quick declaration at Chagai was a straightforward assertion of Pakistan’s capability. Ambivalence lay in the extent of technical prowess. Though Pakistan has improved its nuclear posture, the economic dream ran into successive barriers that deflected and obscured the entire debate.

Military’s major objective was to reduce the dependence of Pakistan on tied aid. An issue discussed at length was to reduce reliance on IPPs, develop alternate indigenous means and ultimately convert the balance of payments into a surplus. Armed forces showed willingness beyond their primary task to extend their role in national development under Article 245 of the Constitution. A special study pin pointing the areas where armed forces could play this role in under a civilian government was also prepared. It included education, building of communication networks in remote areas, soil reclamation, dredging of waterways and irrigation systems, diversion of flood waters and health to name a few. Pakistan was under limited sanctions that became harsher after 11 May. This supplementary effort of the armed forces was to be led by major reforms by the planning division that included energy, taxation, industrial and export policy, education and human resource development.

With a nuclear capability, Pakistan needed to reorganize its armed forces. Modernization was to be complemented by domestic growth successively decreasing the percentage of defence spending in the annual budgets to a single digit. Modernisation plans included mobile, hard hitting and flexible organizations capable of concentrating with superior firepower at a single point.

But as events proved, this wish list was not backed by civilian leadership.  Pakistan’s euphoria of going nuclear was short lived. The government seized private foreign currency accounts worth US $ 11 Billion because the Central Bank had been forced to over spend during the balance of payments. A military chief with sincere and noble intentions was humbled because in a new paradigm, he dared to advocate a Council for Defence and National Security. To the military it meant the broad concept of National Power while the the prime minister saw it an affront to his political power. Fresh from his duals in Kakar Formula, Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and President Leghari, he was in no mood to concede. In the meantime his economic team had built its own formula based on defaults, write offs, money laundering and offshore businesses. Hence the vision of a Post Nuclear Pakistan went into the dustbins of history. What remains is a country whose rulers and rich elites mock international norms of ethical responsibility. May 11 2016 with heated debates on offshore accounts reflects the true extent of this diabolic contrast. Accountability must come of age.

I still subscribe to the theory that this madness had a methodology. The end objective was to make the country captive through other means and keep it dependent. There are parallels in reluctance on part of the prime minister’s team to go nuclear just like the apathy it shows on Zarb e Azb. In 1998, the armed forces prevailed and the prime minister acquiesced with a stubbornness of his own.He did it twice in the past and will not hesitate in future.He must be stopped.

There are two questions that still linger regarding foreign currency accounts. Did the government do it because the central bank had already consumed them in balance of payments? Or the information was leaked to selective depositors who prior to freezing quickly parked their money abroad. If pursued on a timeline, these suspicions will find linkages with sudden rise in offshore accounts of Pakistanis in 1998.

The second question connects foreign currency accounts policy of 1992 to debts written off from1988 to 1999. What was the source of these funds? Why the policy failed to hedge the interests of Pakistan? Did Pakistan gain anything from this futile exercise? I am sure that investigations will find a link in defaults, write offs, FCAs and offshore businesses.Because the game went unnoticed, it emboldened small time businesses and crooks to do likewise. No wonder Pakistanis own huge chunks in Dubai, UK, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Africa. Inasmuch Pakistan’s security managers felt proud, 11 May was a blessing for the corrupt rich elites.  Pakistan’s super rich political elites have common cause.

Back in 1997-99 the government rejected the idea of splitting the foreign currency accounts into two regimes; one for residents and other for non-residents. India and Bangladesh did it successfully. The policy of 1992 was made specifically to whiten ill-gotten wealth into dollars and facilitate flight of capital on a click. Such was the power and influence of these non-state actors that post 9/11, after the surge of a consumer boon even President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz fell to pressures.

But it is wrong to blame just one political party. IPPS were the brainchild of PPP. Per megawatt cost of furnace fuel powered plants in 1994 was $600,000. The contracts were signed at $800,000 and $200,000 difference was remitted to off-shore on quarterly basis. For the installed capacity of 4,000 MW it meant kickbacks of US $8 billion, something each Pakistanis are paying even today. Without off shore companies, it was never possible to run this racket. Shaukat Aziz and PSO ensured that this corrupt regimen extracts every drop of blood from hapless Pakistanis. Soon due to such kickbacks any entity that could produce power joined in. Sugar mafia joined the cartel to capitalize on value of furnace oil and subsidies.

Influential leaders of all political parties are part of this invisible empire. A stalemate with an opera of mudslinging is most likely. When the dust settles, all actors will get back to money making.

So what must be done? Acting within their autonomous powers SBP and NAB can bell the cat to save the future.  But in Pakistan’s failed and politicised system moral initiative is asking for the moon.

First,SBP should release all data on the flight of capital in April-May 1988. Secondly,SBP should release data on all on loan write offs since 1992. The collation of this data will provide linkages to mega corruptions including off shores. To check further rot, SBP should categoriseforeign currency accounts into residents, nonresidents and businesses with separate policies.

NAB should launch an inquiry in the affairs of PSO and its pricing mechanisms. This will lead them to offshoreaccounts.