Visit the US, there is no sign of any threat or attack, life goes like routine with no shade of war anywhere. Here in Pakistan, there is no road or street that does not have barricades, security checks and all sorts of problems that the people face. The entire thrust has come on Pakistan for no fault of hers. Bush and company have made billions, killed people in hundreds of thousands with no swet on their faces.

By Wahab Munir Qureshi

9/11 will always be remembered as a day which changed the course of history. Pakistan joined the US in its so-called war against terror and implicitly signed the treaty of gradual but assured destruction. It was later revealed by Gen. (R) Musharraf, then President of Pakistan, how United States of America threatened Pakistan to join coalition forces or face dire consequences. He in his interview with CBS news show "60 Minutes" said that after the September 11 attacks the United States threatened to bomb Pakistan if it did not cooperate with America's war campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He further elaborated that the threat came from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage and was conveyed to Musharraf's intelligence director. "The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age".

Now ten years down the road it’s worth analyzing how Pakistan has been affected economically and militarily, both at the regional and international levels due to this long war; the war against terror.  Primarily, it was the economic aspect which influenced decision makers more then anything else to join the US in its world wide campaign against terror. It was estimated that the cost of this war to Pakistan would be $2.669 billion dollars. This was calculated on Pakistan’s assumptions that:

  • The war that had begun on 7th Oct 2001 would end swiftly by December 2001.
  • Normalcy would return on track from January 2001
  • The Taliban government would be ousted and a low intensity fight would continue, but this would not affect the economy of Pakistan significantly
  • The additional increase in freight cargo and war premium would be removed. It is obvious that the Pakistani ruling elite of that time failed to foresee the actual implications of joining the US-led camp.
  • The cost of war which was estimated to be about $ 2.669 billon, actually reached up to $ 67.926 billon; war was suppose to end within two months, but intense fighting continued and is still underway, and it is not expected to end anytime soon.
  • Taliban which were suppose to be ousted by January 2002 are still having shadow governments in 32 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Therefore, it’s important to analyze how Pakistan’s economy has suffered over the years. This war has transformed a prestigious Pakistani nation into a nation of the downtrodden, where scholars and intellectuals spend most of their time and energies in accusing the great powers of not contributing significantly in return for Pakistan’s sacrifices in this war.
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Now coming back to the economic losses that Pakistan has incurred in this so called war against terror, is almost $70 billion – equivalent to almost half of the country’s total debt. In financial year 2010-11, Pakistan has lost $17.83 billion, equivalent to this year’s tax target; reported by Economic Survey of Pakistan. These losses do not include the damages on account of a recent attack on Pakistan Navy base in Karachi, destroying two surveillances aircraft; the P3C-Orion and other affiliated losses. 63 percent Pakistanis surveyed in June 2008 expressed that they felt less secure than they did just one year ago. This has resulted in hiring private security; measures have been taken to tighten the security all along the country. Pakistani society is gradually being transformed into an army bunker. Its roads, hotels, hospitals, schools, colleges, factories, mosques, markets, and even parks are insecure. All the security measures that have taken place could have been avoided, if Pakistani government could have made the right choice at the right time. 86 percent of Pakistanis who were surveyed believed their country was headed in the wrong direction, and 72 percent believed their personal economic situation had worsened in the past year.

Economic losses can be divided into two broad categories, tangible and intangible losses. Tangible losses are of two types, direct economic losses and indirect economic losses. Direct economic losses are those which are more visible, measureable, and easy to correlate, where as, intangible losses are invisible and difficult to correlate and measure in monetary terms. 

It was the first time in the history of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations that Pakistan had a friendly government on its second longest boarder, with the Taliban in power. After joining the long war, Pakistan for the first time felt the need to secure its western boarders, as US was occupying Kabul and was transmitting instability into Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to deploy its army and its first soldiers stepped into the territory which has never been conquered and proven to be the grave yard for two super powers. Billions of dollars have already been spent, along with the loss of some 4000 army personnel’s lives in securing our western borders. On the contrary, this money could have been utilized for other productive purposes like generating electricity, building dams etc which, in turn, could have boosted economic activities in the country. In an IMF report, it is estimated that Pakistan has suffered losses of more then 2080 trillion rupees in “war against terror”. Opening a new front and mobilization of Pakistan’s army to western boarders makes the country’s eastern boarders more vulnerable to Indian hostilities and aggression, which for now is deterred primarily due to Pakistan’s outstanding nuclear and missile capabilities. Pakistan has had to deal with a large number of pressing challenges in its military campaign in Swat and Waziristan but has emerged successful despite lack of resources. Now America is threatening Pakistan to start another military operation against the alleged presence of Haqqani group in Pakistan. While Pakistani officials have denied the presence of any such group on its territory, Sirajj-ud-din Haqqani has also denied their presence in Pakistan. Afghanistan is a safe heaven for those people who are working against the American intervention in Afghanistan, as 32 provinces are still under the rule of Shadow government of Taliban.     

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Pakistan’s economy has been damaged badly over to its involvement in the war on terror and its dependence on foreign aid and services has increase. This reduces its ability to become self efficient and also forces it to make compromises on its sovereignty, which is an integral part of modern nation-state system. Money given to Pakistan in the name of aid doesn’t even compensate the tenth of the losses it has occurred. US remains the main provider of aid to Pakistan, under heads like Economic Assistance, USAID, Military Assistance, Coalition Support Funds, Kerry Looger bill, etc. But large parts of this aid remain conditional and are meant for specific purposes which serve the interest of the US. Moreover, this aid is distributed through NGOs, which shows the level of trust US has on its front line coalition partner. In fact, this aid has proven to be poisonous for Pakistan’s economy, its GDP drops from 4.3% to 2.3% in ten years. Pakistan, by joining US led war on terror has entered into hostile relations with domestic and regional actors. In other words, the very act of becoming a front line ally of US, has jeopardized Pakistan’s security and economic existence. This has led to the creation of a law an order situation in Pakistan; deaths of around 35,000 innocent people, thousand wounded, and billions of dollars of property losses.   

Huge sums of money are spent to improve the internal security of the country. CDA for example is planning to replace concrete blocks with automatic road blockers in Islamabad. The project will cost around Rs1.5 billion. Now, you may not come across any gate without a security guards, holding a gun in his one hand and a metal detector in other; in front of walk through gate, behind security fence. This setup is now quite common in the country, but was never witnessed before 9/11. Country’s five star hotels are now converted into virtual bunkers with a small army of security guards. Similar setups are witnessed in schools, offices, factories and elsewhere. All these security measure need money, man power, and time which could otherwise be utilized to advance economic activities. Furthermore, these security measures make people insecure and act as a hurdle for foreign investors and investment.

It may be noted here that 4510 out of 9000 officials of Islamabad Police have been deployed with the VVIPs and politicians to provide them with fool-proof security, whereas, the remaining force is deployed in the various departments of police including police stations, traffic police, CID etc. Similar setup is witnessed across country. This, in turn results in fewer number of law enforcing personals actually performing their duties of protecting common citizens which allows criminals to conduct their activities and escape as police force is busy in protecting elite. This results in instability and discourages economic activities. The government needs to realize that such an environment is not conducive for domestic and foreign investment. While domestic investors are thinking of investing elsewhere, foreign investors are also disheartened by such developments.       

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Economic losses of Pakistan in “war against terror” are much more then merely economic losses, even though the aid given to Pakistan is marginal and conditional, and loses can not be measured in monetary terms. In contrast to $67.9 billion in losses, the United States has so far given $13 billion in aid to Pakistan, of which almost $9 billion are military disbursements and $4 billion in net civilian aid. The total amount is less than what Pakistan suffered in losses in fiscal year 2010-11 alone. Now it is quite obvious that Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror has had detrimental consequences for Pakistan’s economy. If Pakistan had decided to stay away from this long war as Iran did, then Pakistan might have been in a better and stable economic position.  

After analyzing the gains and losses that Pakistan has had to bear in the past ten long years, it has become obvious that the longer we’ll stay in this war, the more we are going to lose. Now its time to review our foreign policy and to avail the opportunity given to us by the Americans themselves to exit from “war on terror”. Pakistan is under pressure to start military operations against Haqqani group, whereas Haqqani group in not a banned or terrorist organization as yet. It has never carried out any act of violence in Pakistan. Its struggle is mainly against the American occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan must develop a more regional cooperation approach focusing on China, Russia, Central Asia, Iran, ASEAN and rest of Muslim world. The longer Pakistan will stay in US camp, the more we are going to hurt our national interest. US is supposed to exit from Afghanistan in 2014, and without a shadow of doubt, Taliban will emerge as the most powerful and determinant actor in Afghanistan’s politics. Pakistan must try to rebuild working relations with its neighbors to secure its national interest and to safeguard against the Indian influence in Afghanistan.