BY SHARIK BASHIR
Published July 8, 2012
PAKISTAN — We Pakistanis seem to enjoy blaming others for our problems. In a country crumbling under the weight of the consequences of its own actions, populist rhetoric continues to point fingers in various directions. Distributing blame for Pakistan’s failures on external actors is the convenient and safe option, but Pakistan will continue to suffer as long as we don’t learn to confront our problems, accept them as our own and try to mend relations with the rest of the world.
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Since I returned to Pakistan, relations with the United States have reached their lowest point. The U.S. is fed up with dealing with the incumbent Pakistani government. As a result of the Salala incident — in which a U.S. aircraft gunned down 24 Pakistani soldiers at the Salala check post at the Pak-Afghan border — the Pakistani authorities shut down NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, refusing to open the vital route to Afghanistan without an apology from Washington. After months of deadlock, the U.S. has finally decided to say “sorry” for the incident. Pakistan has agreed to contribute to negotiations to reopen the NATO supply route in return.
Another case of Pakistani finger-pointing and misplaced pride is in the cards. Every politician in Pakistan knew that closing the NATO supply route was detrimental for Pakistan. Because of poor relations, halted aid payments and Pakistan’s mounting debt, the U.S. dollar is expected to hit 100 rupees by July, which is torture to the already-starved Pakistani economy. To make matters worse, Pakistan decided to sentence the doctor who gave intelligence to the U.S. about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Dr. Shakil Afridi was tried through a draconian legal system in Pakistan’s mostly lawless Federally Administered Tribal Area. Few Pakistanis accept the credibility of the Jirga system, so it would be asking too much of the international community to accept the sentence.
The incumbent Pakistan People’s Party government needs to do what is best for the country and not what is best for its own image. Restarting negotiations with the U.S. was necessary, and now the PPP needs to work on repairing the resulting damage. But the light at the end of the tunnel looks dim. As Washington applies pressure from the top, Islamabad fails to react as political disarray has plagued the capital city. The PPP government has proven that it isn’t concerned with the well-being of the country. The first prime minister under this government was disqualified because he acted against the order of the Supreme Court and refused to send a letter to Swiss authorities to open corruption cases against the president of Pakistan for money laundering. When the time came to elect a new prime minister, a warrant went out against the PPP’s first choice candidate for involvement in a drug scandal while he was the health minister. The PPP’s second choice candidate and current Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was once the water and power minister in a country that doesn’t receive much of those two utilities. A man who wasn’t competent enough to run a ministry is now expected to hold the reins of a country stumbling into a domestic and international crisis.
Of Pakistan’s total budget of 2.96 trillion rupees, 926 billion rupees will be spent on servicing debt. About a third of the budget is being spent on simply servicing debt, yet the sum of 926 billion rupees is hardly a drop in the bucket of Pakistan’s overall debt. The PPP needs to get something right. After relentless warnings from Washington that its patience was running low, some progress has finally been made. It would be best not to upset our allies and do what we can to rebuild our relationship with the U.S. As the PPP struggles to drag its battered carriage eight months further across the finish line, we can only hope they don’t continue to drag the rest of the country on the ground behind it.
Sharik Bashir is a LSA sophomore.