VIEW : Has Pakistan lost $ 68 billion? — Mohammad Nafees
Losses like uncertainty, decline in foreign investments, effects on trade, tourism, and other businesses are the result of the insecurity emanating from terrorists’ acts of violence
$ 68 billion is the figure that Pakistan often claims to have lost so far for playing the role of frontline state in the war on terror. Is it true? Maybe! Let us analyse the data that makes up this loss and see if that vouches for the authenticity of this claim. Uncertainty, export losses, and decline in foreign investment are the key causes that are claimed to have consumed 44 percent of the total losses while compensation to affected people and infrastructure development make up only 11 percent of this loss. Does it not sound quite peculiar that these intangible losses take the lead against the tangible ones? Take uncertainty for example. How can uncertainty be assessed and on what basis are its losses quantified? The term uncertainty in itself is quite confusing and misleading. What actually is meant to convey through this term is unclear. Does it mean to convey that there is an uncertainty within the corridors of power or within the business community about the future this country holds for them? If it is used to imply that our alliance in the war on terror created uncertainty for foreign investors, then the relevant data needs to verify it.
Since 9/11, Pakistan has enjoyed an unprecedented rise in foreign investment. From a paltry amount of $ 308 million as foreign investment back in the year 2000, it started rising and reached the level of $ 4.2 billion by 2006. This upward trend in foreign investment continued till 2008 when it reached $ 5.4 billion. Thanks to the political chaos that began soon after the restoration of democracy, the foreign investors started fleeing from the country. Yet, foreign investment has not touched the bottom line. If we compare the total amount of FDI received during the last two decades of 1991-2000 and 2001-2011, the latter decade, popularly known as the war-on-terror decade, shows a significant improvement in this sector. During the whole decade from 1991-2000, we received only $ 5.07 billion as compared to $ 22.3 billion in 2001-2011, nearly $17.0 billion more than what was received in the pre war-on-terror decade.
Likewise, exports had also witnessed a constant growth after 2001 and the latest report shows that they rose by 33 percent during the July 2010-June 2011 period despite the worst security situation and energy crisis. The export trade’s growth from 2005 to 2010 was about 60 percent (from $ 14.3 billion in 2005 it went up to $ 19.2 billion in 2010) and if we include the growth of 2010-11 ($ 24.8 billion) it will be more than 120 percent growth within the last six years. This seems to be a great achievement amid the global economic meltdown of 2008 and an ongoing war on terror.
Over this economic growth during this tumultuous period, Pakistan also received $ 13 billion as funding for the war on terrorism. The US claims to have paid $ 20 billion so far. Luckily, our Pakistani community living abroad has also been a great source of relief to its war-torn country. From remittances of $ 4.2 billion in 2005, they went up to $12.0 billion in 2011, three times more than what they sent six years ago. Therefore, all these findings contradict the claim of the government about a huge loss that the war on terror has allegedly brought to this country.
To consider Pakistan as a frontline state in the war on terror, in my opinion, is in itself a wrong assumption on our part. Ours is a country that is right in the midst of the war on terror and not one that is on the borderline of a country where the war on terror is going on. If you disagree, just name one leader of the al Qaeda or the Taliban that was found or killed in our neighbouring country, Afghanistan. Unfortunately, most of them have been found or killed in Pakistan. Even the founder of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was found hiding in Pakistan and was killed here. The terrorist attack on PNS Mehran and the US operation in Abbottabad have also revealed the level of penetration al Qaeda and the Taliban have gained inside the highly disciplined institution of our military. The options left with us are either to fight against terrorists or accept them as our ally and declare war against the US. We are in a situation where all roads lead to war. It is the ultimate result of the policies we pursued in the past and we cannot undo them without taking a firm stand against them. Instead of fighting this war on our own, we better be a part of the world community and make a resolve to clean the country of all sorts of extremism and terrorism that have taken root here. If the losses incurred in this war are more than what is normally accepted, we had better come up with solid and undeniable proofs. Making an unrealistic wish list as we did for the flood disaster last year is not going to work. Initially, we claimed that the flood-related losses and damages were around $ 45 billion. Later, a joint assessment by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank estimated it to be around $ 9.7 billion. The budget for 2011-2012 also carried Rs 855 billion (close to $ 10 billion) as flood-related losses.
The real losses of the war on terror are human lives and infrastructure. All other losses like uncertainty, decline in foreign investments, effects on trade, tourism, and other businesses are the result of the insecurity emanating from terrorists’ acts of violence and the weakening of the law and order situation. Even if we delink ourselves from our alliance with the US, the losses in the economic field are not going to be recovered. Therefore, the ball is in our court. Do we want to live with our extremists or the world community? Both have their own price tags along with their advantages and disadvantages. We are at a crossroads where our decisions are going to make or break this country. We have to take one or the other side. Sailing in two boats may not work anymore.
The writer is a freelance journalist and researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org