Is the Raymond Davis murder case our biggest issue? Or is the 24/7 coverage symptomatic of a nation that is unable to prioritise? Surely, the families of the victims have a right to demand justice, but is that the primary concern of those who seek political gain out of a tragic incident? That’s the funny thing about the ghairat brigade. It seems to only be outraged if the perpetrator is American. Lest there be any doubts, there is little concern for the victims.
Pakistan is still reeling from the floods that devastated our country six months ago, yet it would seem we have overcome the misery that befell roughly 20 million of our people. But that is far from the case.
The UN appeal for $2 billion to rebuild Pakistan remains only 56 per cent funded. According to an Oxfam report, hundreds of thousands are still homeless, over 200,000 cases of influenza and pneumonia were reported in the second week of January alone, and one in every four children in Sindh is malnourished. It should be noted that Pakistan spends a measly 1.8 per cent of its paltry budget on health, when even Nigeria spends 4 per cent and the UK spends 15 per cent.
We need foreign aid simply to trudge along, which is unlikely to be forthcoming in the event of defiance. What makes the ghairat brigade think it can confront the US eye-to-eye is a matter that continues to perplex me.
Some assert that the US is losing control of the world as it knew it, with uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and cannot afford to destabilise its relationship with Pakistan. It is true that the US has paid lip service to democracy while supporting dictatorships and for this reason, along with its double standards on matters of human rights and civil liberties, it has earned the ire of Muslims across the globe.
However, it is also true that Egypt, much like Pakistan, is severely dependent on US aid. US military aid to Egypt totals $1.3 billion annually. Much of this aid was the result of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979, just as military aid to Pakistan was bolstered when both the Zia and Musharraf regimes cooperated with American policy on Afghanistan. Since 1975, moreover, the US has provided $28 billion in economic and development assistance to Egypt. Thus, no matter who comes to power in Egypt, its relationship with the US is not terribly at risk.
No Egyptian government can afford to dispense with US aid in the absence of alternative funding. This is the question our ghairat brigade must answer. What will be their sources of alternative funding if they believe they can run the government by shunning US aid? And I mean real workable plans and not grandiose rhetoric.
There are only a few models out there. There is the Iran/Venezuela model of confrontation, which is not feasible because we are not an oil-producing country. There is the China model, which is also not feasible because we are not willing to adopt a one-child policy and accept government heavy-handedness. And then there is the East Asian model.
The US was ruthless to Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia, but they simply put their heads down and worked hard. Ghairat didn’t really cloud their vision.
And today, they are way ahead of us, their people far more prosperous. Do we want to be a South Korea or a North Korea, is the question we need to ask ourselves.
Finally, Pakistan has no international voice. Davis has virtually not been covered by international media, where events in Egypt have taken precedence. So instead of the misdirected energy employed in whipping up anti-American sentiment by an overactive media at home, we would do ourselves a favour if like China, Iran, India, Russia and France, we had an English channel beamed abroad, airing the Pakistani perspective. That is where it is really needed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2011.