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Colours of discrimination

Sometimes red, and sometimes grey, it is all on merit, that is what they say. Seriously. Probably Not. Like it or not the palette is in their hands. With one broad stroke on the canvas they can strike you out or get you in. Pakistan was retained on the red list by the UK. Pakistan was retained on the grey list by FATF. Reason being genome testing and some further tightening of laws. These reasons are unreasonable, this logic is illogical, such arguments un-substantive. That is the way the global system is made, that is way rules are interpreted and enforced. That is the way of the rule makers. That is the way of the rule takers.

Modern day literature endorsing equality and equity is more of a pose than practice. The world is becoming more unequal and more inequitable by the day. An Oxfam study shows that the world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth than 99% or 6.9 billion people of the world. The rich are under taxed. With more wealth than 6.9 billion people in the world these trillionaires just pay 4 cents off each dollar of tax collected. This huge gap is reflected in access to health, education, sanitation, etc. COVID-19 has just made this divide bigger. There are many types of myths that the world is beset with that have governed the way this balance has become so lopsided:

1. Globalization will create a win-win- Globalization was supposed to create one market, remove boundaries, create accessibility and help give equal opportunities to the lesser developed world. Two decades into this century the opposite has happened. Protectionism is on the rise and richer countries have monopolized markets and policymaking. The European Union instead of expanding is without Britain due to Brexit. The NAFTA was annulled by the then President Trump who was building a wall on Mexico border. COVID-19 has further dampened the prospect of market access due to travel restrictions.

2. International Institu-tions will restore parity-The developed world also developed international mechanisms of making global decisions. Organizations like the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund became the financial and international bodies to decide global policies. The problem with these bodies is that member countries who contribute most have the financial and political clout. This obviously makes them a duopoly that is dominated by the rich countries. G7 is a club of the richest 7 that sits down to make decisions for 200 countries. The FATF is a typical case. Pakistan has one of the fastest and best compliance of its requirements yet it is on the grey list as Indian lobby prevails the order of merit and transparency.

3. Restoring democracy and peace- Another myth that has been busted is that western democracy will bring peace to the conflict-ridden countries. America and its NATO allies have interfered in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan for decades. The plea is to combat extremism, terrorism and despot leaders. Nearly all of these interventions have led to more wars, more bloodshed, more extremism. Afghanistan has been at war for 40 years. External interventions were and never will be solutions. They are never perceived and received as there to restore democracy but to control and occupy. This creates rebels with a shared cause leading to a snowball effect on violence and bloodshed.

Every study that has been carried out by international think tanks has highlighted the folly of these busted myths. Yet the world loves repeating history. There is a strong sense of despondency among analysts as they see decade after decade the same flawed policies and the same tragic results. So, is all lost for the lesser developed world? Are countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan always going to be at the mercy of the discriminators? Not necessarily. Every setback can be a disguised opportunity. There are some hard lessons to be learned and implemented:

1. Choice of leaders- Target, invade, occupy strategy of America depends on the cooperation of leaders of that particular country. They prefer to have puppet leaders who tow their line and give them space and control in return for aid and privileges. Whether it was Ashraf Ghani, or Saddam Husein, or Asif Zardari or Pervez Musharraf, all compromised on the principles. Choosing leaders or holding leaders accountable is the responsibility of the people of that country. It is extremely important that leaders whose interests and assets are out of the country should not be chosen by people. They will simply reap personal benefits of the American aid and when the going gets tough simply pack their bags and leave.

2. Economic sovereignty-Another lesson is that countries that are dependent on foreign loans will never be able to make independent policies. The conditionalities of the IMF, World Bank, and rich countries are always rent seeking. Take the example of China, India and Iran that have developed their own resources. China and India due to their manufacturing and marketing capabilities became emerging economies. Iran refused to bend to American pressure despite sanctions. Similar is the case with Turkey. That is why it is imperative for Pakistan to learn this lesson and create economic sustainability to get out of the debt and conditionality trap.

3. Political relevance-Even when countries are small they can be strategically relevant. Pakistan has never fully leveraged its geo-strategic importance. The Afghanistan war is showing glimpses of how relevant Pakistan is. Having banned PIA flights to Europe, the European Union is now forced to request PIA to help evacuate their staff from Kabul. Pakistan can be a very important country if it plays its cards well. The West will need it for keeping its presence in Afghanistan. It will need Pakistan in the future for the trade corridor that will emerge between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

It is an unfair world. The powers of this world wear shaded lens. They see countries through whichever shade that “they” perceive is beneficial to their plans. Nelson Mandela was on the CIA list of terrorists till 2008. He was and will be remembered as the one of the greatest leaders and human being of our time. The Indians have painted Pakistan red for decades. Big market clout has made the western powers see Pakistan through the Indian lens. The solution is not to wait for the world to start viewing Pakistan differently but to ensure that we create a power goggle that the West wants to wear. This requires crafting a powerful narrative of “a country on the up”. This requires a credible story of economic turnaround. This requires a compelling socio-political performance scorecard. These three hues will create a greener shade for the lens the world wears to view Pakistan.

Andleeb Abbas, "Colours of discrimination," Business Recorder. 2021-09-06.
Keywords: Political science , Economic sovereignty , Economic sustainability , Saddam Husein , Asif Zardari , Pervez Musharraf , Pakistan , Iran , Iraq , Syria , Libya , Afghanistan , CIA

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