An old Moorish proverb brings to mind a great truth "He who is afraid of a thing gives it power over him." Sufi Muhammad threatened to cancel Swat Accord unless the president signed it immediately. Instead of being fearful, the right thing was to bring the matter before Parliament for debate and decision. Parliament was required, as ultimate sovereign and representative of people's will and comprising of every political party, to not only examine the effects of such an agreement where a civilian government had given in to the demands of an armed group and carved out a separate territory, but also lay a strategy for future course of action. Instead the resolution approving the accord was passed in one day with all, except MQM, tamely surrendering. The future course seems to be to achieve peace, however temporary, by signing accords with whoever has the muscle to make the government 'afraid'. Pakistan's situation has deteriorated seriously and it is now facing food and power shortage, rising inflation, falling foreign reserves, devaluation of its currency, decimation of its textile industry, and lack of investment in view of the prevailing law and order situation. Taliban insurgency is spreading rapidly (Province of NWFP is under virtual siege and rest of the country in fear as a result of daily bombings). People of Buner bravely resisted this onslaught but because the state did not come to their rescue, Talibans are successfully consolidating their hold on this area as well. Killing of Baloch leaders has also ignited strife in Balochistan which is continuing. Although sometimes night can seem endless, and one might believe that morning may never come but "Dark of Night" is not the end of world. It is this very time, when you think you have little to lose and nothing could be worse, which can be used to move into the new dawn, to deliberate and take action. In the words of Theodore Rothke: "In a dark time, the eye begins to see." Pakistan is in such a crisis that perhaps for the first time, we have the opportunity to close all doors and open our minds to decide what is in Pakistan's best interest. US too must accept ground realities that Pakistanis increasingly see US War in terms of increased costs and no benefits and unless US is willing to help them through providing substantial economic and military aid which is implemented in accordance with solutions made by and for Pakistanis, the government may continue to give in. The good thing is that most Pakistanis realise that foreign aid is not the only answer to our problems, which foremost need to be resolved by Pakistanis in their own best interest. Any counter Pakistani strategy must be to meet Taliban's ideology with Islam and propagate true values of Islam where seeking of knowledge is a duty, tolerance a virtue and protection of all faiths, castes and creeds is ensured. However we may not be able to combat the force of Talibans alone and need foreign economic and military aid. While in the past we accepted aid in return for unconditional support of West's strategies whether or not good for Pakistan, I believe this time we can bargain, because US needs Pakistan more than ever if its struggle against terrorism is to succeed. West does not understand the cultural, social, religious and historical aspects of this country and is not the right doctor equipped with proper knowledge to provide correct antidotes. By blindly relying on West's proposed solutions, we have always participated in preparing a recipe for our own disaster. An economically viable Pakistan is a necessity for everyone to put the picture in prospective. Pakistan at 174 million people is not only one of world's largest country but the second largest Muslim majority country (only Indonesia is bigger) in the world and the largest country in Central Asia or the Middle East. Pakistan in addition is one of the eight nuclear powers in the world, and has a large well-trained army. Geographically it shares the borders with China, India, Iran and Afghanistan, who are all either important Asian powers or main suppliers to US economic or key US strategic concerns. Pakistani expatriates are also significant players in UK, Middle East and America (where they are the largest ethnic groups amongst American Muslims). These statistics alone prove my point that the world cannot afford to see Pakistan in trouble. Imagine this nuclear powered Pakistan, with large modern cities and global expatriate communities, trained army, huge Sunni and Shia populations, with scientists and intellectuals, educational institution, located geographically in a key situation, becoming like Afghanistan, controlled here and there by war lords or being run over by Talibans. This will surely have a dramatic impact on the region, on US and West policies, upon the conflict in Afghanistan and on the world's peace and stability. And who would benefit? According to Pakistani Policy and Economic Development Recommendations (PPEDR): "Primary beneficiary of any breakdown of civil society in Pakistan will be Al-Qaeda and Taliban who will be able to step into the vacuum...these players also desperately want to get control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In summary, a failed or ungovernable Pakistan will consume the energies of a President Obama Administration in a massive war on terrorism instead of domestic policies." Kerry, former 2004 US presidential nominee and currently chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee while writing for the Washington Times agrees that a single country has become ground zero for the terrorist threat we face. The consensus among our intelligence agencies is that top Al-Qaeda leaders are plotting their next attack from Pakistan, where the prevalence of extremists and nuclear weapons make that country the central, crucial front in our struggle to protect America from terrorism. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has called the border region the "site of planning for the next attack" on US. Pakistan is under enormous pressure from all sides, from tensions with India to a ferocious insurgency in the tribal belt to a financial crisis that threatens the solvency of the Pakistani state. And all of this is being held together by a fledgling civilian government not even a year old. For our sake and theirs, America must do more to help Pakistan. The world must make vigorous investment to generate popular support against militants and the programme needs to be, like the Marshall Plan, ambitious enough to make a difference. US is spending over US$800 million and US$120 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan and in only two months spent over US$1 trillion on his own financial crises. The announcement of the current US aid package to Pakistan of Rs 3 billion per year is peanuts compared to the above. Since the major portion out of this is for military and. the remaining will involve engaging services of a number of foreign firms and experts and linked with purchase of foreign supplies, only a small portion will get converted into real money for Pakistan. According to PPEDR, Pakistanis have learnt over the past decades that "...US must decisively change the economic calculus for Pakistanis to join this shared effort. We must devise a strategy that isolates and fights the militants by enlisting the Pakistani population in the effort. The strategy must be focused on enhancing the power of the middle class by providing tools that strengthen its economic status and incorporate the following elements: " Vigorous investment in infrastructure building (roads, energy, healthcare and education) using a public/private model. " Help in institution building and good-governance so the Pakistani people see the fruits. Kerry too recognises that "a military strategy alone cannot prevail. An effective counter-insurgency must address longer term political, economic, and development challenges, especially in Pakistan's FATA and NWFP on the Afghan border. This is why I will seek swift passage of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, which would triple non-military assistance to Pakistan through projects that will directly support the Pakistani people, strengthen democratic institutions, promote economic freedoms, and encourage investment in the agriculture, education and infrastructure sectors." The world will however support Pakistan only up to a limit and there are certain conditionalities which must be applied to us for our own good. A welcome and dramatic change in dispensation of economic and military aid from the US is that this time procedures, checks and balances will be put into place to see that money is spent for the people. Additionally the US intends to work with the civilian government and politicians and not pin their hopes on one personality. This will ensure that Pakistan's leaders act responsibly while recognising that "America must lead an international effort to protect Pakistan from financial collapse." Kerry writes: " Pakistan's leaders will have to act responsibly in the months ahead. Future international aid packages should include verifiable guarantees that the money will be spent on economic development that helps the Pakistani people. While our support is crucial, key to the success of all of these efforts will be the Pakistani leadership's ability to resolve outstanding political issues so it can focus on the difficult challenges of governing...as vital as civilian aid will be in Pakistan's success, we also need to provide the tools to fight the extremists. We can do this and still demand greater accountability from Pakistan's military." US has decided to play a more positive role in building up Pakistan's relationship with India and Afghanistan which too augurs well for the future. Kerry recognises that any "winning regional strategy" needs to "recognise the centrality of Pakistan's relationships with Afghanistan and India." A direct result of delay in formulating policies is that the government has been unable to protect those who have tried to defy the Talibans, which is beginning to discourage collective resistance. While it is still not too late, we do not have the luxury of time and need to move fast in taking decisive steps, together with our friends, in evolving a parliamentary consensus on the aid packages and their utilisation. To let things continue as before will only allow anti-Pakistan forces to gain more power through fear. The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan E-mail: ali@mandviwallaandzafar.com