Khurshid Akhtar Khan The United States of America assumed the crown of the unchallenged sole super power of the world, as its only rival the USSR commenced disintegration in 1985. The soviet forces retreated from Afghanistan on February 18, 1989 and the union of the soviet republic finally collapsed in 1991. The US defense budget for the current year has soared to US$663 billion that constitutes 46% of the combined defense spending of the entire world. The next spender is China trailing at a measly 5.8% and Russia at 4%. The US has developed the logistics for rapid deployment of forces to strike anywhere by entering into military alliances with several nations. It maintains a vast network of military basses in at least fourteen and naval bases in eight countries around the world and its warships patrol the oceans in strategic locations. On 9/11/2001, a group of Saudi young men hijacked three passenger aircrafts in an astonishingly well planned and precisely executed operation that went undetected by the super intelligence agencies, radars and other surveillance equipment at the disposal of the Americans. One aircraft rammed into the World Trade Centre in New York, another in the Pentagon building in Washington while the third mysteriously disappeared. These direct attacks on the American soil shattered its impenetrable defense. The Americans retaliated by invading landlocked Afghanistan in 2002 taking NATO forces on board, although none of the perpetrators were Afghan nationals. Sophisticated air power and gadgets like daisy cutters were employed to drive out the defenseless Taliban, capture Kabul and install a government of its choice. At least 30,000 civilian casualties have been reported and nearly 1300 soldiers of the NATO forces have been killed in skirmishes that continue unabated. President Musharraf was 'persuaded to facilitate the logistics for the NATO forces when he was familiarized with the consequences of non-cooperation. Thus Pakistan became an unwilling ally in the American war that precipitated the wrath of most Pakistanis in general and our tribal people in particular. A few militant groups resorted to an unending spate of suicide attacks killing and injuring hundreds of their own people and putting ordinary citizens in perpetual fear for their lives. As the writ of the government was challenged, it became inevitable to contain these misdirected militants. Military operations were launched in Malakand and South Waziristan, bringing the American war to our doorstep. We had unwittingly compromised our sovereignty as early as 1954 when we aligned with the US in the anti-soviet military pacts of SEATO followed by CENTO in 1955. We were rewarded with financial assistance and military hardware that has proved in hindsight to be a punishment. We were encouraged to import arms, machinery and finished goods without cultivating the principles of self-reliance and hard work and paid little attention to long term planning and developing the technological skills required to manufacture them indigenously. Our nation got addicted to living beyond its means in luxury on borrowed money and subsidies, reducing entrepreneurship to making hit and run quick profits. During the entire period of cold war, India maintained its non-aligned status in close liaison with the Communist block without straining relations with the capitalist West. Many of our elite got educated and trained in the US and returned to mindlessly promote western culture and mindset that was alien to our economic and social patterns, thus creating a social disparity with the masses. As television was introduced in 1968, our public was simultaneously beamed Amritsar television received by installing an aerial. Later, we were inundated with pirated Indian films through VCR and cable networks. Our religious hierarchy though largely ill-educated and disorganized, assumed greater importance in this environment of social backwardness and made inroads in the impoverished rural areas by providing basic religious education in madarsahs that became a breeding ground for extremism and sectarianism. The Indians meanwhile adopted austerity and self-reliance. They protected their industry by restricting import of luxury items and foreign investment in key industries, concentrating on the development of know how and basic industrial infrastructure necessary for import substitution. It was in 1991 that Manmohan Singh as finance minister initiated gradual economic liberalization by opening India for foreign investments and partnerships. The Indians built on their liberal values, ancient civilization, architectural heritage, song, dance and music and already thriving film industry as a vehicle of international promotion for their products and culture. They have shrewdly cultivated a romance for their nation, camouflaging that 40% of Indians are still illiterate and more than 60% live below poverty line in slums at less than $2 per day. The second most populous country in the world, where more than 1500 languages are spoken, is riddled with acute ethnic acrimony, discriminatory caste system, dozens of separation movements and corruption. We in Pakistan share many of these problems but on a far lower scale. We have been victims of political adventurism and excessive dependence on foreign aid that dictates our foreign policy. Our direction of economic reforms got derailed with each regime change. We have a confused cultural identity that has of late become synonymous with terrorism. Our legendry excellence in sports like Squash, Cricket and Hockey are relics of the past. The political instability, indifference to character building and unscrupulous materialism have eroded our confidence and dented our national pride. Nevertheless, we are self sufficient in food and rich in natural resources with adequate basic infrastructural network and a 180 million strong pool of intelligent human resource. Our nation has the capability to match or exceed the level of progress of any of our neighbors. As we stand condemned to an unholy war, our people confront internal disorder, human sacrifice and a strain on economy. The people must emerge from their isolation of being silent spectators and come forward to apply pressure on their leaders to set the national directions for the economic, social and cultural welfare and closely monitor them to ensure they are followed to the end. The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur Email: