How has the Afghan War effected development in Pakistan during Zia’s Regime

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On 5th July 1977 General Ziaul Haq overthrew the government and imposed martial law, arresting Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was later executed on 4th April 1979 after being found guilty by the Lahore High Court on account of murder. His purpose being to resolve the deadlock between the opposition and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government by holding fair elections within 90 days of him declaring martial law. [Hasan, 1998]. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution, which was highly condemned by the foreign influential leaders, struck another blow to Zia’s Regime which was already under pressure from the foreign powers to restore democracy.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 was a scapegoat for Zia as now the foreign powers, especially the United States required Pakistan to be a frontline state in trying to prevent the Soviets from establishing a base in a region which was recognized as a buffer between the Russian dominion and the powers of South Asia. One of the first impacts on Pakistan of the Afghan War was the huge influx of refugees which started flowing into Pakistan once Babrak Karmal power had been established.

Throughout 1980, around 80,000 to 90. 000 Afghan refugees were crossing the border into Pakistan each month along with their livestock which too would survive of the already scarce pastures in NWFP and Baluchistan. It was not until January 1980 that some United Nations Agencies started by giving a helping hand to Pakistan to cope with these refugees before which Pakistan alone had to bear the burden of providing the refugees with shelter, food as well as a monthly allowance. [Hilali, 2002]

Three hundred and six camps were set up in NWFP, Baluchistan and Punjab to accommodate the 3. 7 million refugees who had crossed the border into Pakistan [Jadmani, 2003]. Not only did the refugees impose a burden on Pakistan by requiring the basic necessities but they also imposed more strain on the already weak infrastructure. Pakistan, dedicating most of its budget towards defense was already lagging behind in providing its own citizens with basic needs such as hospitals, schools, water and land.

While the Soviets were still in Afghanistan, the United Nations was providing food assistance but once the Soviets withdrew, the assistance being received was reduced considerably and eventually cut off even though a lot of refugees which had moved into Pakistan remained within the borders even after the war. Due to the large number of refugees in these camps it was not possible to keep them confined within the camp and thus they were allowed to roam freely in search of making their own living. Once these refugees found their way into the Pakistani society they caused even more problems.

They provided cheap labor in the primary sector which rendered Pakistan’s own work force jobless. Besides that, to make a living the Afghan refugees indulged themselves in atrocious crimes such as robberies, car lifting, prostitution, etc. According to an article in Dawn dated 30th September 2002, Afghan settlements in Karachi and Islamabad had become hideouts for criminals [Jadmani, 2003]. Not only did these refugees put a strain on the infrastructure by calling for the already scarce resources such as food, they brought with them what was called the “Kalashnikov culture” [Hilali, 2002].

The military aid provided by the USA led to a thriving arms and ammunitions industry in NWFP which had the capacity to produce around 100 AK-47’s in one day [Hilali, 2002]. CIA and the ISI were both working together to provide support to the Afghan Resistance with CIA providing $640 million for operations in Afghanistan. According to a report, a shipment of arms arrived at Karachi port which was supposed to go to the resistance fighters but was rejected by the Pakistan army on grounds of them being unsuitable for mountain warfare.

These weapons then disappeared and later showed up on the market and soon found its way into the more populated major towns of Pakistan where terrorists, militants and ethnic and sectarian groups obtained them to fend of police and pursuer their own agenda unrestricted [Tara, 1997]. According to a report in Newsweek, High civil as well as military officials were skimming around 30% of the aid which was supposed to go to the Afghan resistance [Goodwin, 1987]. Pakistan at this stage was facing quite a few dilemmas regarding its security.

At the western border there was the threat of the Soviets who would be looking for an opening into the Indian Ocean which could be achieved by extending their operations into Baluchistan. At the eastern border was the ominous Indian presence. Pakistan could have accepted its fate and lived under Soviet domination becoming a part of a vast South Asian economic network as promised by the Soviets or it could support the Afghan resistance and try to drive out the Russians which would risk putting it into direct conflict with the Soviets. [Grare, 2003]

United States of America under the presidency of Jimmy Carter promised Pakistan $400 million as economic and military aid to help curb the Soviets and to provide support to the Afghan resistance but at the same time they did not promise Pakistan security, which is primarily what Pakistan was looking for. American national security advisor Zbigniew Brezinski clearly committed to the security of the Persian Gulf and they included Pakistan in the Persian Gulf region, but once General Zia related this episode at a public meeting: So I asked, “Where does Pakistan lie, in the Gulf or outside Gulf in your respect?

And Dr. Brezinski told me, “It lies in the Gulf”. So I said, “Just let me ask you one question. If there is a threat to the Gulf, will the United States go to war? ” he said, “Yes”. I then said, “if there is a treat to Pakistan, will the United States go to war? ” He looked at me. So I said, “You don’t have to say anything” [Grare, 2003]. Pakistan rejected this offer from President Jimmy Carters office as not only was the economic and military aid not sufficient for the purpose nor was it enough to risk a confrontation with the Soviets in which Pakistan would have found itself standing alone [Grare, 2003].

It was not until Ronald Reagan came into power that a aid program was constructed which was acceptable by both the USA and General Zia [Grare, 2003]. Through this agreement Pakistan received $3. 2 billion worth of economic and military aid from the US conferred over a 5 year period with Saudi Arabia matching and providing almost the same amount of aid as the United States of America [Jadmani, 2003]. The aid package was expected to stimulate the development of national socio-economic conditions.

But unfortunately in actuality it led to an undesirable creation of a military elite [Jalal, 1991]. Instead of self-reliance, trying to maintain a balanced foreign trade budget and to boost investment, Pakistan opted for this foreign aid. This aid not only led Pakistan deeper into the debt trap which already existed from the time when Pakistan had started taking aid after its independence, it also created an utter dependency on this aid to maintain the current standards of living in wake of the increasing population [Rashid, 1983].

The Debt trap was as such that Pakistan had to take more aid just to settle debts previously owed by them. It is as if the West had issued the less developed countries like Pakistan with credit cards which charge a high interest rate, as Pakistani’s work and pay off the principle and the interest, they are allowed a higher credit limit at even higher interest rates.

As they continue to spend more due to increase in their population, at one point they accrue so much liability towards the Western countries that had provided them with the credit, that just to pay of their previous debts they have to take additional loans or aid from other International Organizations which purely exist to make sure that less developed countries are able to pay off their creditors. This vicious cycle continues as Pakistan needs the aid to maintain the current standard of living and at the same time needs to make the payments on its debt. Rashid, 1983] During Zia’s regime, according to the Government of Pakistan’s economic survey (1977-1983) it was experiencing a growth in its GNP per capita by 4. 4% [Parvez, 1998]. This increase was mainly accounted by the rise in the narcotics trade which was once again a direct repercussion of the war going on in Afghanistan and the influx of Afghan refugees across the border. This figure though not clearly reflected in the official figures it did constitute a large part of the expansion outside the productive sectors [Parvez, 1998].

Instead of using the economic aid to improve infrastructure and provide for education and development, it was used to import more of consumer goods [Hilali, 2002]. This rise in GNP was also an indication of the high government spending to support the Afghan resistance; this did not reflect the true welfare of the country or its citizens. This reflects the unearned state income theory. [Moore, 2001] According to Mick Moore, state income is only considered to be earned to the extent that both the citizens and the state interact to generate the revenue [Moore, 2001].

During the period of the Afghan War, Pakistan was getting most of its income or revenue from external sources in the form of aid. The tax collected was minor when compared to the financial aid Pakistan had received over the years. This alienated the state from the citizens. The government, not feeling indebt to its citizens dedicated most of its budget towards defense instead of using it to improve the appalling social conditions prevailing within the country [Parvez, 1998].

Along with the military aid, the economic aid provided by the USA to increase the economic performance of the country was either used up for military expenditure or was skimmed off the top by corrupt military officials. According to Mahboob-Ul-Haq, a former finance minister and World Bank vice-president the money Pakistan spends on buying three submarines can finance primary education for 17 million children for one year or provide pure drinking water to about 67 million of its population. Rehman, 1997] Throughout the period of the Afghan War, Pakistan was relying mainly on aid given to them by the more developed countries. According to the Dependency theory that’s the reason Pakistan still is in the developing stage [Frank, 2001]. It continues to rely on more powerful western powers for support who in fact take back more from the country than they give.

Multinational corporations use countries like Pakistan for their cheap labor and then milk the profits outside the country, thus restricting any plough back of profits within the country for investment purposes which leads to a stagnant economic growth [Ali, 2004]. Conclusion: The Afghan War had mixed affects on an already struggling Pakistani economy. General Zia benefited from this war as it provided him with a distraction from his undemocratic rule. As a result the military got tremendous amount of aid which was required by to withstand any threat on its eastern border.

But as far as development goes, this era only led to a large number of social problems whose effect can still be seen in the current situation of the economy. Example of such a problem is the Afghans refugees living in major cities of Pakistan. Aid negotiated by General Zia in hope of improving economic and social conditions in Pakistan not only deteriorated the balance of payments but also restrained social and economic progress. This was due to the high defense expenditure and high expenditure on consumer goods respectively.

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