Some suggestions for new govt

Asif Haroon Raja

Saturday, June 08, 2013 - Anti-Kalabagh Dam (KBD) lobby in Pakistan has successfully scuttled plans to construct KBD which is technically most feasible, economically viable and beneficial for all the four provinces. ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) has doggedly opposed construction of this dam since in its view KBD will sink Nowshera in KPK. Sindh nationalist parties maintain that it would turn Sindh into an arid area and deprive them of Palla fish. They say there is not enough water in Indus River to justify another dam and the proposed dam would greatly lessen the water quota of Sindh and Punjab will draw maximum benefit from it. Landed Sindhi Waderas and the PPP also joined the bandwagon since many of their leading lights have tens of thousands of acres of irrigation lands in Katcha area in Sindh, where their lands are irrigated by flood waters each year. It is now an open secret that India is backing the anti-KBD lobby since it knows that KBD would adequately meet the water needs of Pakistan and make it economically prosperous and thus fail its program of drying up Pakistan by constructing large number of dams over Rivers Chenab, Jhelum and Indus.

Gen Ziaul Haq made sincere efforts to build the dam but could not do so because of immense political pressure from these parties. Next Nawaz Sharif tried but had to abandon it because of loud protests. Gen Pervez Musharraf resolved to undertake the project since by that time Indian designs had been exposed and Pakistan’s water needs had multiplied. With the help of technical experts which included members from KPK and Sindh, he debated the issue to dispel misperceptions aired by vested interests and tried to convince them that bulk of water flowed into the sea because of absence of storage system. They were told that all the contentions were false.

They were informed that fear of Nowshera getting submerged in water is fallacious. It was stressed that dams do not consume water but store water. Whether there is one dam on a river or ten, no additional water is needed except when the lake of dam is first filled. Water is consumed at the barrages where canals are taken. There is a provision of a right bank high level canal in the design to irrigate the DIK area, and a left bank canal to irrigate South Punjab. But the water for DIK and South Punjab would be drawn from the share of KPK and Punjab respectively. As for Sindh, it will get its 37% share additional water from the KBD of 2.5 million acre feet. The Sindh province would get the maximum benefit from KBD. When anti-KBD technical experts ran short of arguments, MQM jumped in and forbade Musharraf from undertaking this project and he shelved it under the frivolous plea of lack of consensus. When the PPP led regime took over power in 2008, the first announcement it made was to shelve KBD for good. Instead it opted for highly expensive thermal Rental Power Project (RPP).

Failure to build dams coupled with RPP scam and high-scale corruption in Wapda led to acute energy crisis which resulted in power outages and gas shedding for long hours and destroyed the industrial sector. Policy of appeasement allowed India to deflate freedom movement in occupied Kashmir and to construct 40 big and small dams over our three rivers. Mismanagement, poor governance and insatiable greed to loot and plunder led to high inflation and sky rocketing price spiral, which not only ruined agriculture but also increased poverty and joblessness. Increasing poverty, lack of justice, snobbish attitude of elites towards the have-nots, rulers subservience to the US and intrusion of US in internal matters have all contributed towards fuelling terrorism.

Patronage of criminals and mafias and near absence of accountability promoted lawlessness and gave greater freedom of action to the criminals and target killers to spread bedlam. Sidelining merit and giving preference to favorites ruined state owned public enterprises. Politicization of NAB, police and other law enforcement agencies gave a freehand to the wrongdoers to indulge all kinds of malpractices without any fear. Such recourse resulted in wide scale embezzlement and irregularities in all government and semi-autonomous departments. Corruption in lower courts kept the unprivileged segment of society deprived of ends of justice. Corruption in education department promoted the culture of ghost schools and blocked growth of literacy rate. Avid lust for power and wealth led to degeneration of moral turpitude.

Of all the four provinces, performance of Sindh government was the worst, although Balochistan government was no less. Every MPA of Sindh Assembly should have been held accountable for bloodying Karachi with human blood for five years and for keeping the economic hub centre of Pakistan perpetually destabilized resulting in closure of industries and business centres and exodus of businessmen to other countries. Unholy practices of extortion, bank robberies, burglary and kidnapping for ransom, carjacking and motorcycle lifting, raping, land grabbing and drug trafficking scaled new heights. Mercifully the people have got rid of parasites and are now eagerly looking forward for a healthy change through the new government. Ongoing acts of terrorism against liberal parties are the outcome of previous government’s policies.

Foremost duty of the caretakers and ECP was to carry out proper screening of candidates and then hold fair and free elections so that right kind of persons entered the legislature. The duo has not lived up to the expectations of the people since all the black sheep have easily passed the screening test. Series of successful terrorist attacks on leaders and activists and election offices of liberal parties in particular indicate that the duo is failing in this duty as well.

Irrespective of rosy manifestos of each party, foremost duty of the new elected government should be to take stock of the magnitude of the problems faced by Pakistan and evolution of methods to solve them. Worsened law and order, enhanced threat of terrorism, faltering economy, energy crisis, poverty and threats from across the border should be accorded top priority. Comprehensive policies should be evolved and resources harnessed to confront these challenges. Lavishness should be replaced with austerity, all holes of corruption plugged, nepotism and cronyism to be ended and merit system restored. Selection of heads of all state corporations and semi-autonomous bodies done with due care to reinvigorate the flagging health of state institutions. Creative economic policy aimed at exploiting own resources and giving up foreign crutches should be framed. Construction of Bhasha and other smaller dams should be expedited and KBD project undertaken.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst and columnist.

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