KARACHI: Pakistani officials say the country has suffered more than $ 150 billion in economic losses over the past 20 years after allying with the United States as a frontline state in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington.
According to a report released by Brown University earlier this month, the cost of the post-9/11 conflict to Washington exceeded $ 8 trillion and claimed 929,000 lives in conflict areas.
The report says 423,000 people were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan alone, adding that the United States had to pay around $ 2.3 trillion for its war in the two countries.
According to Pakistan’s parliament, the country has lost more than $ 152 billion as a result of the protracted conflict in Afghanistan which has lasted around two decades.
However, experts say the emerging situation in the war-torn country has created a new set of challenges following the withdrawal of international forces.
“Pakistan has suffered an estimated $ 152 billion in economic losses since the war on terror began 20 years ago,” Aliya Hamza Malik, parliamentary secretary for trade and investment, told Arab News Thursday without give more details.
In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post last June, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the cost of the war to his country had exceeded $ 150 billion.
“Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan,” he said. “Over 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed. While the United States provided $ 20 billion in aid, the losses to the Pakistani economy exceeded $ 150 billion.
Drawing a dismal picture of the situation in Pakistan since the start of the conflict, the Prime Minister said: “Tourism and investment have dried up. After joining the US effort, Pakistan was targeted as a collaborator, which led to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups.
Pakistani military media wing spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said in January this year that his country’s economic losses from the war on terror amounted to $ 126 billion. dollars.
Pakistan attempted to formally quantify the cost of the war by listing it under a separate heading in its economic survey until 2017-18, but stopped recording the figure in more recent publications.
According to the 2017-18 Pakistan Economic Survey, the country incurred a cost of $ 126.79 billion due to the loss of physical infrastructure, foreign investment and industrial production, as well as monetary compensation paid. to the victims of the conflict.
However, experts believe that the number of losses presented by various administrations and private organizations is largely speculative.
“There is no real data because the loss is theoretical,” Husain Haqqani, a researcher at the US-based Hudson Institute and former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, told Arab News.
“If ‘X’ hadn’t happened, our economy would have made the ‘Y’ amount. Therefore, “Y” is the loss we incurred due to “X” is a theoretical estimate. “
“There are also those who argue that Pakistan benefited economically from September 11: more aid, funding from the IMF without meeting NATO conditions, fees and transit charges,” Haqqani said.
However, Imtiaz Gul, president of the Center for Research and Security Studies, called the losses “immeasurable”.
“The real losses inflicted on Pakistan after 9/11 are immeasurable as it is not always possible to quantify the opportunities the country missed with each passing day,” he said.
“Pakistan was seen as a bad guy,” he said, “which drove investors and financiers away from the country. Therefore, we can only calculate the real loss by looking at the economic impact of the negative perception built up over the years that refuses to die. “
Gul noted that Pakistan had not received any major investment from a Western country in the past two decades, even when the United States and others praised Islamabad for its support during the conflict.
He said the only state that tried to fill the void was China, which invested in infrastructure and power generation megaprojects.
Experts argue that the country has suffered an annual loss of around 3% of GDP over the past two decades.
“We have lost tens of thousands of lives, our infrastructure has been destroyed and the social fabric ruined,” Sajid Amin Javed, senior economist at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, told Arab News.
“Estimates show that Pakistan has lost almost 3% of its GDP every year. “
However, US officials maintain that Pakistan has accrued several advantages by participating in the conflict. In a 2018 Twitter post, former US President Donald J. Trump claimed Washington had given more than $ 33 billion to the country.
“The United States has stupidly given Pakistan over $ 33 billion in aid over the past 15 years, and it has given us nothing but lies and deception, seeing our leaders as fools,” he said. he stated on the social media platform.
The Pakistani prime minister admitted that his country received $ 20 billion in his opinion piece, although he added that its losses far exceeded that number.
Security analysts say much of the money flowing into Pakistan was reimbursement for services provided to the United States under the Coalition Support Fund.
“Almost 80% of the money the United States claimed to have provided to Pakistan came from the Coalition Support Fund,” Gul said. “These were basically refunds made domestically.”
He added: “The United States did not supply Pakistan with anything new, but gave us used C130s, Cobra helicopters and many AK47 rifles. “
Faced with a vast security deficit and endemic suicide bombings, Pakistan has launched several military neutralization operations in the tribal areas neighboring Afghanistan in recent years and has carried out intelligence-based counterterrorism operations. in its urban centers within the framework of the National Action Plan.
With the withdrawal of international forces from neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani analysts appear cautiously optimistic about the future stability of their country and the region.
“I think that, geopolitically, Pakistan can benefit from a relatively stable situation in Afghanistan which will probably allow it to reach Kabul, as well as other countries like Russia and China, to launch an economic stimulus plan and rehabilitation, ”Gul said.
Economists, however, said the country’s financial losses were far from over as there was still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the emerging situation in Afghanistan.
“What’s worrying is that the costs of 9/11 are apparently not over yet,” Javed said. “If factional fighting begins in Afghanistan, Pakistan could continue to incur significant economic costs in the coming days. “