‘Scenes From a Marriage’

‘Scenes From a Marriage’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, July 14, 2011

Ever since the US occupation of Afghanistan almost ten years ago, two illusory fictions, common in many nuclear families, have dominated the discussion on AmPak relations. The first is that neither side is fully aware of what the other is doing; the second that a total breakdown of the relationship is imminent.

As long as the Pentagon bankrolls the Pakistan Army to fight its wars and NATO troops remain in Afghanistan there will be quarrels, charges of infidelity, tantrums, a reduction in the household allowance, taking away of toys like night-vision goggles, perhaps even a short separation, but a divorce? Never.  The cash/arms nexus is crucial to this most recent phase of the AmPak relationship. In return for it, as Wikileaks revealed, Washington defines, interprets and implements the rules of the marriage. It drones the country, it violates its sovereignty, its agents kill citizens on public highways, etc. International law is arbitrary and Pakistan’s response was suitably mild: the expulsion of 100 US Army special trainers.

It is in this context that the threat to reduce the military aid by $800 million dollars (a quarter of the total annual payment) will hurt, but not too much. General Kayani, the military chief whose term of office was renewed only recently and, no doubt, with Pentagon approval, has been contemptuous of the cuts in aid.  Why not give the same amount for civilian purposes he wondered aloud, knowing fell well that any money on this scale given to the Zardari government would end up abroad. Figures released by Transparency International claim an increase in corruption from Rs 195 billion in 2009, to Rs223 billion last year, but these are an obvious understatement since most of the corrupt deals are conducted without paperwork and many involve the accumulation of valuable property by ruling politicians at knock-down prices.

Cronyism and protection rackets have made Karachi, the country’s largest city, a war-zone with rival gangs affiliated to rival political groups (including the ruling party and its sometime-allies, sometimes-enemies) virtually ungovernable. More people died in Karachi last year than in Waziristan or as a result of Afghan war-linked suicide terrorism. The social fabric of the country is being torn apart and an implosion is inevitable.read more

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