Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Caught Between the Moon and the “Begging Bowl” - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Let us look at two statements released by the neighboring countries of India and Pakistan. On one hand we have India, the population of which exceeds one billion, saying, “We are going to the moon for the first time. China has gone earlier, but today we are trying to catch them.” In Pakistan, on the other hand, which has a population of 172 million, a finance official stated that the country is seeking to borrow four billion dollars to avoid defaulting on its debt.

What a sad paradox between a country that is celebrating its mission to the moon and another that is moaning about the pressure of debts and the fear of bankruptcy.

Pakistan, which celebrated reaching its last agreement with the International Monetary Fund [IMF] three years ago when former president General Pervez Musharraf said, “We have broken the begging bowl,” and whose incumbent president [Asif Ali Zardari] once said that his country would rather tighten its belt than turn to the IMF for help, today finds itself in desperate need of financial aid since there are warnings that its economy is deteriorating sharply. This is indicative of a grave and imminent danger as Pakistan is a nuclear country that is threatened by an ocean of religious extremism.

This is the danger of the Pakistani situation and it is within the rights of countries to be hesitant about offering Pakistan aid today in view of the stifling economic crisis that has afflicted the world. But at the same time, there is still the danger that Pakistan could fall into the hands of extremists and subsequently, threaten vital parts of the world because Pakistan is a nuclear power. If Pakistan came under the control of extremists, this would be an international crisis.

If Afghanistan, with its mountains and caves, was able to strike the world a hefty blow, imagine what nuclear Pakistan could do. The Pakistanis, primarily, must take this matter into consideration; their country needs them to take a stand.

Some time ago, we took part in a meeting with a European official attended by Pakistani media figures. The discussion tackled the political conflict in Pakistan and there was virtually a unanimous agreement that Pakistan faces no danger because of democracy.

In Pakistan today, we are witnessing the direct opposite of that; there is a fundamental difference between lively democratic debate and the battle to gain political or personal influence. What we are seeing in Lebanon could be considered a fiercer example of that; it is where partisan or individual interests are given more importance than the wider interests i.e. the interests of the country.

As long as democratic debate continues or spreads in democratic societies, it will never affect the state institutions that represent the real foundations of the state and we have seen how institutions can be dragged into political conflict in Pakistan.

The solution to saving Pakistan must come from Pakistan itself by defining the dangers and the priorities and by taking a decisive stand in the war against terror and the internal political conflict. Pakistan’s problem is that it is a critical and nuclear state but within the country, problems are hindering its real progression.

Therefore, neglecting Pakistan would be disastrous and to rescue it amid these economic circumstances would require a miracle. Pakistan’s situation forces one to think what if Iran − a country that is threatened today by the decrease in oil prices − was to become a nuclear power as well. Should its neighbors rush to save it so that its weapons would not fall into the hands of its extremists?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

More Posts