The government has signed another suicidal contract with the IMF, promising continued obedience to the diktat of the dollar empire. Why is it so difficult for the ruling PML-N to act upon its 2013 election campaign pledge that it would break the begging bowl? Have the new managers of our economy so much as even seriously considered breaking the bowl of poisonous brews pressed against our lips and poured down our throats in the guise of helpful assistance?

Obviously, if they had given it some thought, they would have come up with a comprehensive plan to sustain Pakistan’s economy without the dollars doled out by the fund, the grand-daddy don of the international monetary system, and other lesser donors in the gang that wait for their cue from the IMF don. No such plan has been presented by the ruling party. In fact, other political parties that use a lot of anti-IMF rhetoric have also failed to present a workable alternative.

Admittedly, coming up with an alternative model of economy is not an easy task. A vast web of many traps has progressively tied us to the hypocritical framework of the IMF that uses the jargon of helping poor and unstable economies to their feet while cutting the hands and feet of countries it assists, making them crippled and dependent on its dole for quarterly survival. Yet, it is an absolutely necessary and urgent task that the country’s leadership is sleeping on.

The timid so-called alternative floated by the PTI before the elections was mired in the same problematic neo-liberal framework promoted by the IMF, and didn’t go further than tweaking it obediently. There was no attempt to grapple with the fundamental flaws in the international monetary system controlling the planet and its resources and designed to rob the poor to enrich the rich. Certainly, there is a need to look beyond the dollar and the craftily constructed indices of development and growth.

One will not have to start from a scratch either. There is already a debate regarding the air-filled god of dollar and its fictitious worth. Proposals for a new ‘more solid’ and jointly regulated international currency have been floating for a while and countries are finding ways to bypass the dollar through currency swap agreements, barter and other trade arrangements. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from countries resisting the exploitative framework of the IMF and the unhindered corporate imperialism it would like to impose on the globe through its policy prescriptions. But successive Pakistani governments have gone on following the tricky pied piper as if that was the only option.

The nation has paid the price for that, not only because of the anti-poor policies prescribed by the IMF but also because the multi-million tranches, a bulk of which is used up to pay interest on earlier debt, are tied to good behavior on our part when it comes to conducting our affairs in other spheres. We must accept killings on our territory by American drones even if it occurs on Pakistan’s defence day. We must not be too enthusiastic about the Pakistan-Iran pipeline. We must develop good ties and trade with India even while it kills Pakistani villagers and soldiers on the LOC and badmouths and threatens us. We must not question the fallacy called ‘War on Terror’ and go along with the plans charted out for our subjugation and eventual destruction.

A large section of the very vocal and very resourceful elitist intelligentsia spends overtime in convincing us of our helplessness. Dominating the discourse in the media, these so-called intellectuals exaggerate the dependence of Pakistan on international assistance and tell us that without the loans and aid, our country would collapse. They would like us to believe that we are a dying patient who could not survive without the oxygen of foreign assistance. With their interests, elitist credentials and careers enmeshed with the dollar empire, they bind our minds in the chains of slavery and are quick to deride any assertion of independence or sovereignty as emotional ghairat. They would like us to sink deeper and deeper in the quicksand of dependence and the resulting suicidal obedience.

This lobby of opinion leaders might be the most ardent lawyers of the empire in our midst but they are not the only ones. Whether it is political leaders or the military top brass, the bureaucrats or business leaders, the ngo-wallahs or clerics, we seem to have developed a very high level of tolerance for foreign assistance and seem oblivious of all that it brings. Our government depends on an IMF injection to balance the budget and the peanuts of USAID for development. The military requires the coalition support fund to counter terrorists. The NGOs need donors to fund its projects. Even the religious institutions get foreign assistance for spreading the message of God.

It would be silly to think that all this assistance doesn’t come with a cost or that those assisting us have any altruistic reasons to help us. By opening our doors to these tainted funds we provide leverage to foreign players to meddle in our internal affairs, buy loyalties of our citizens and even shape our societies in ways that suit them. The cacophony of donor-driven voices is designed to confuse our national priorities and create a distractionary discourse aimed at taking us further from any solutions. The fragmentation and divisions caused by various shades of foreign-assisted projects and programs is a constant hurdle in the evolution of a national narrative.

There is a need to end the inflow of the inherently two-faced foreign assistance in whatever garb it comes. And since the Nawaz government says that it will fix the country by fixing the economy, perhaps it should have started by saying no to the IMF. After outsourcing economic planning to the IMF, there is little it could do on that count. Besides, the more important question remains: Is it even thinking on those lines? Or was all the brave talk about breaking the begging bowl just a popular slogan that it raised without meaning it?

The writer is a freelance columnist.