Two weeks out of action and I return to Pakistan to find it as topsy-turvy as ever. It's been topsy-turvy for some time actually, except that the roller coaster of life makes one somewhat immune. When uncertainty and instability persist for long they become the norm. But by now the mirage has almost faded and the reality that Pakistan is shorn of its sovereignty has become stark. Today it stands naked as a ghost state of the United States of America, without the benefits that would accrue from being a formal part of the federation. I returned to the madding crowd to see another stark reality: a few honourable exceptions notwithstanding, our elite has collapsed. That's disastrous, for it is from the elite that leaders in all walks of life come. What remains is intellectual debris piled upon the rubble of our identity demolished by cultural confusion. In its place is a bag of peanuts with no brains, unlike a peahen that has some. Some peanuts think they were grown in America, others in England. Anyway, back to the main topic. The present dispensation suits America perfectly. Musharraf drew a line that America couldn't cross. That line has long been rubbed out. It's taken them a long time to get here. Why should they upset the applecart, unless they have an even more pliable and obedient dispensation in mind, if that's at all possible? They've already put boots on the ground. They are carrying out drone attacks openly from bases in Pakistan. They restored the sacked judges, much against the incumbent president's instincts. They are building a huge, super-fortified embassy in Islamabad. Anyone who doubts that it will also be an intelligence and military operations base should have his head examined. The cost of building it will be added to our 'debt'. It's like asking a man to pay for the bullet he is going to be executed with. Our peanuts argue that the size of the embassy reflects the size of the US commitment to Pakistan. Sure it does. When you take over a country you have to have a large enough presence there, about the same size as the total number of British - around 4,000 - stationed in India at the zenith of the Raj. The dirty work was given to the new Indian elite that was "English in every respect except for the colour of their skins." They were the original peanuts that acted as intermediaries between the British and the vast native multitudes. Today's peanuts are progeny of these original cultural hybrids also known as 'Brown Sahibs'. Then there's Blackwater, the notorious private US security firm of contractors now apparently operating in Pakistan - a mercenary force doing the dirty work the CIA and FBI cannot, usually without the knowledge of Congress. You can feel the bloodstained paw prints of Dick Cheney all over this. It is ostensibly providing security to a Washington DC-based firm called Creative Associates International, Inc (CAII) in Peshawar. CAII describes itself as "a privately-owned non-governmental organisation that addresses urgent challenges facing societies today..." How is this gobbledygook relevant to the Soviet-US-Afghan-terrorism-ravaged Peshawar of today? "Creative views change as an opportunity to improve, transform and renew..." says CAII. Only a peanut could decipher this gibberish. It may be a humanitarian front that also acts as cover for covert US intelligence operations. Blackwater was operating out of the CAII office in Chinar Road, University Town, Peshawar, until, according to an Urdu newspaper, its head, Craig Davis, was arrested and accused of establishing contacts with "the enemies of Pakistan" along the Afghan border. He was reportedly expelled and the CAII offices sealed. On July 27, 2009, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that the residents of University Town, Peshawar, are living in fear "due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater...residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq." Imtiaz Gul, a local engineer, told the authors that, "Sometimes these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with passers-by; sometimes they point guns at people without provocation. Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within a state." Who indeed? Suddenly, the US government seems to have developed a liking for Pakistan. President Obama is going to chair the 'Friends' of Pakistan meeting in New York along with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Zardari on September 24. That's certain to raise a lot of money. Holbrooke declares that Pakistan is gaining political stability and spells out a plan to help Pakistan overcome its perennial energy crisis and strengthen its economy all round. We could soon see a free trade agreement. There's talk of Pakistan being lured away from the Iran to Pakistan pipeline. There is talk of an America naval base in Balochistan. These are big things. Soon we might see America investing in the social sector, particularly in health and education and later in services, manufacturing and agriculture when it is satisfied with our political stability. "What is good for Pakistan is good for America" will be the new motto, provided the good comes from America. Why this sudden change? One can only conjecture. America has realised that the practice of use, abuse and abandon was a disaster. Has America also realised that that Pakistan is a much better bet as a base than Afghanistan? It is bigger with a better-educated population and resources. Its geo-strategic location is terrific. From here America can rapidly deploy to Afghanistan, Iran, the Central Asian Republics, the Middle East and South Asia and monitor all of them and Russia and China too. Co-opt the Pakistani government, establishment, academics, retired bureaucrats and generals, businessmen, journalists, and relevant politicians. Have they also realised that this won't work unless they also, and most importantly, co-opt the Pakistani masses by giving them what their governments have failed to, particularly upward economic and social mobility. Upwardly mobile people getting progressively educated are unlikely to be attracted to extremists. The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: