Jalees Hazir The apologists of Kerry-Lugar Bill have tried to paint its critics as emotional and devoid of reason while presenting themselves as rational and realistic. Other than a disdain for their country and countrymen, these politicians, academics and media commentators have another thing in common: they are all prisoners of a dark past and refuse to see the new Pakistan that grows stronger and stronger around us each day. One consistent argument they advance in support of the Kerry-Lugar curse is that its nothing new. As if pained by the opposition to it, they point out again and again how US aid to Pakistan has always been tied up to conditionalities. They quote examples of the Glenn, the Symington and the Pressler conditionalities to justify those contained in the present bill. Weve been subjected to them before so why are we crying now, they say. This is a ridiculous and irrational argument that only serves to strengthen an oppressive status quo. And coming from these so-called leaders of change, it is shameful. A wrong committed in the past, no matter how many times, does not give it an unchallengeable sanctity. Going by this argument, the African-Americans and women should never have been allowed to vote in the US, slave trade should never have been abolished and the colonies never freed from the clutches of Europe. A similar imbecilic discourse against the restoration of judiciary was orchestrated, that harped upon the fact that many of the deposed judges, including the chief justice, had earlier taken oath under the PCO. More recently, to thwart a move calling for the trial of Musharraf under Article 6, his friends in the present regime had started asking for the trial of all previous military dictators that had unconstitutionally grabbed power. Past, it seems, is a convenient ploy in the hands of those opposed to change. Though change is the most permanent feature of human existence, the Rule of Law movement that swept the length and breadth of Pakistan not long ago can be credited with giving a positive and coherent direction to it in our immediate context: it transformed the consciousness of Pakistanis who see themselves no more as subjects but as free citizens of a free country. We might still carry the burden of an exploitative and inefficient framework of governance and a leadership weaned on outdated politics, but this dubious heritage has become unacceptable to the people who now not only expect but demand from their representatives to govern in the public interest. Conditionalities attached to US aid might not have provoked such a backlash in the past, but the fact that they are being rejected by the people today should be reason enough for the leaders to wake up. Instead of responding to the public pressure that basically asks the government to put its house in order and be more creative in the management of our bountiful resources, the present leadership has shown itself to be completely clueless when it comes to alternatives. Bred on dole-outs, they cry themselves hoarse trying to convince us that this meagre money from the US is of utmost importance for our national development. They have shown themselves to be pathetic cripples, incapable of running the country without foreign financial assistance, unwilling to even start thinking about such a possibility. Their budgets and development plans rest on the undependable crutches of US approval. The apologists of the bill are essentially saying that we should not expect our leaders to stand on their feet and if we have tolerated cripples as our leaders in the past, we should not object to having cripples running our affairs for the present, and by extension, for all times to come. Camouflaged as pragmatic discourse, other boot-licking arguments of the apologists are equally misleading. They are eager to point out that the conditionalities only apply to military aid as if it is of no significance. Is the civilian government not supposed to watch out for the interests of the countrys defence forces? Demonising and ridiculing the military and its intelligence agencies is hardly the way to go. In fact, for a civilian government eager to exercise control over a powerful military establishment, and dependent on its successful operations against militants for remaining in the good books of its foreign masters, it is necessary to make sure that the military requirements are met. In their defense of the bill, its proponents distract our attention from the ominous black cloud to illusory silver linings. They say that we are a corrupt and inefficient society and monitoring would make our government accountable. It doesnt seem to matter to these pseudo-democrats that monitoring under the bill would make the government accountable to the US government and not to the electorate in whose name it exercises power. They are happy about the conditionalities regarding civilian control of the military, ignoring the fact that it has created more tensions in the civil-military relationship that was otherwise headed in a democratic direction in any case. At a time when the institutions of the state should be working together, even this patently divisive tactic of the divide-and-rule masters is viewed by them as a victory of democracy. There are many problems with the case advanced by the apologists of the bill that try to convince us that we are beggars and therefore cannot choose. They do not seem to make any distinction between the massive public opinion that has rejected begging as a means of national survival and the leadership that insists on defying the national mood and continue in its begging mode. And then, with mouths watering at the very thought of it, they gloatingly remind us that we do not have to give this money back. It is free. This is their most misleading argument. When the Europeans arrived on the shores of the American continent, they presented blankets to the guileless and gullible native-Americans. The blankets were free but the invaders had ensured that their free gifts carried enough germs to kill those who received them. The writer is a freelance columnist.