Pakistan’s friends are getting jittery about its trajectory. And in an effort to collectively do something about Pakistan and its many problems, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey, and representatives of China, the European Union and the United Nations met under the co-chairmanship of President Asif Zardari and the Foreign Ministers of United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States, to launch the Friends of Pakistan (FoP) Group in New York on September 26.
The message from the formation of the FoP is clear: the rest of the world now believes Pakistan needs help to fight terrorism. This means not only helping Pakistan fight its internal battle against terrorism but also helping the country economically. The FoP also agreed to develop a comprehensive approach to the economic and social development of Pakistan, with a special focus on education, health, and human development as well as addressing the issue of the country’s energy shortfall.
At Pakistan's request, the group agreed that a special representative should be appointed from a member-nation or organisation to take forward the agreed agenda. “The group agreed to meet again at official level in Abu Dhabi within a month to determine a detailed programme of work,” according to the joint statement issued by the group.
While Zardari’s priority is to obtain a massive infusion of funds to shore up a tottering economy, the FoP wants an entry point into Pakistan’s internal dynamics so as to influence the country away from extremist politics. Available information suggests that though China sent a representative to the New York meeting, it did not associate itself with the joint statement. India, not too surprisingly, wasn’t invited.
It looks as if ‘Pakistan’s friends’ have come to believe that the country might just go under if they don’t chip in with help. The problem is that the US has been helping Pakistan with massive financial assistance since 2001; ‘extremism’ has just got worse.
For too long, Pakistan has been outsourcing the solutions of its economic woes to the US and other Western nations without addressing the basic problems of under-development in its economy. Each time the country has been bailed out. Now, under Zardari, its efforts appear to be more of the same.