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Kalabagh dam dilemma

One of the burring and most debated issues in print and electronic media now a day is the opposition to the construction of Kalabagh dam, ignoring an informed discussion on its merits and demerits. One may think Is Kalabagh dam is frown upon and rejected for purely political reasons or the concerns raised are genuine? Why coming to life of this multidimensional mega project has been resisted tooth and nail by the leaderships of mainstream political party PPP and self proclaimed nationalist regional party ANP and Sindhi nationalist groups for the past 33 years?

The province of Sindh is more affected by the prevailing water shortages in rivers and dams. Quite recently, Chairman WAPDA Lt General (R) Muzamil Hussan has made an offer to handover control of Kalabagh dam to the provincial government of Sindh to allay their misgivings about it.

A leading English daily newspaper has criticized and belittled the importance and utility of this project of national interest the other day in its editorial titled “Beyond Kalabagh dam” without highlighting its pros and cons. Moreover, it failed to suggest alternatives for averting the ever increasing water crisis. Contrary to this, the neutral and professionally competent water experts comprising hydro-engineers, reputed big dams consultants and seismologists have unanimously declared this project a foundation stone for tackling the impending threat of water shortage. In certain regions of Punjab and Baluchistan water table has gone under 750 feet. The only and foremost feasible option at present is the construction of this dam accompanied with water conservation practices.

The plan of Kalabagh dam was conceived in the decade of 1960s. Detailed human population and livestock survey along with geological survey were carried out. Comprehensive feasibility and project cost documents were prepared. International lending institutions including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank gave a green signal for its financing after the project cost approval. Land had been acquired and construction of residential colonies was about to start but Z.A Bhutto government shifted it to the back burner.

Kalbagh dam project was brought to the front burner by the Government of General Zia. The financiers were once again approached and their nod for financing was obtained, even the pre-requisite documentation for floating international tenders were compiled and completed. Vested political interest appeared on the scene to torpedo this fruitful project of national development and peoples’ prosperity. The farcical bogey of sinking the districts of Nowshera, Charsadda and Swabi was raised merely as political gimmick and point scoring from mid 80s and onward. The theory of backward flooding from Kalbagh dam into the Kabul River is nothing but a conspiracy theory because it is not supported by concrete facts and figures. The deluge of July 2010 that affected Nowshera and Charsadda was the not the result of backward flow from River Indus. The damage was mainly caused by the forward flow of flood water of Kabul River, its tributaries, Swat River and Jindi River. Every big dam has spillways to release the pressure of flood water and prevent backward flooding.

Launching and completion of this project alone is not a panacea for solving the water crisis, rather it will mitigate up to great extent the water scarcity. India is diverting a substantial proportion of water flow of River Neelum through Kishan Ganga dam and that of River Chenab through Rattle dam, which all the more make Kalabagh dam inevitable. In addition to this dam Pakistan needs launching of more dams upstream Tarbella including Diyamer Basha, Dasu, Katzara and Satpara.

Last but not the least water conservation methods should be put into practice to ensure optimum utilization of available water resources. The concept of water conservation is not an alien one because it had been in practice since Greek and Roman eras. There are numerous methods of water conservation. Micro irrigation, bottle and pitcher irrigation drip irrigation etcetera. Bringing these conservation technologies will not only supplement the water use efficiency but also ensure food security, which is one of major problems of millions of people in Pakistan.


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Hinting at low price LNG deals

In comparison with the volatile crude oil prices, liquefied natural gas (LNG), if purchased at the prevailing standard international prices, will prove a game-changer for Pakistan’s economy. Plans are underway to make more long term supply arrangements of LNG at comparatively lower price than the previous one of PML-N government through government-to government deals and tenders. Pakistan LNG Limited (PPL), which deals with gas imports, is voicing hopes that in future deals price will come down leading to savings of billions of rupees.

At present Pakistan State Oil (PSO) is importing six LNG cargos per month at old price, which is higher than its international price. It is because of US dollar 4to 5 differential per mbtu in comparison with import price of LNG by India, China and Australia that opposition politician Sheikh Rashid Ahmad is persistently agitating the issue for conducting a probe into the LNG import deal with Qatar and approached NAB in this regard. The deal was finalised by former Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, when he was the minster of petroleum and natural resources in Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet.

The demand for LNG for power generation is increasing and PPL has been allowed to bring six more cargos based on the requirements of power producers and Sui Northern Gas Pipelin4es limited. So far PPL has struck mid-to- long term contracts for two LNG cargos per month and is in the process of bringing the remaining four cargos. A senior government official has revealed that efforts are underway to enter into deals at better price which may ensure foreign exchange savings of $ 300 millions per year or $ 3 to 4 billion in oil imports over the next decade as well and bring down average LNG price in Pakistan.

LNG is gradually replacing the costly diesel and furnace oil in thermal power generation plants. The conversion of all thermal power plants to LNG that is purchased at international price, and not the one agreed by previous government with Qatar, will accrue savings of $ 2 billion annually through more efficient power generation at 62 percent efficiency with lower tariff of Rs. 7 to 8 per Kilowatt-hour.

The fresh deals at the current price in the global market for LNG import and its usage for thermal power generation will be a big step for achieving optimal energy mix. It will certainly bring down the cost of production in manufacturing and agriculture sectors, making our exports of finished goods and primary commodities competitive in the International market. Saudi Arabia and UAE have imposed an economic blockade on Qatar that provides an opportunity to renegotiate the LNG deal made by PML-N government with a view to secure better price as compared with the earlier one.

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Appeasing offshore account holders

The tax amnesty scheme announced by the previous PML-N government has not encouraged the illegal offshore account holders to pay a ridiculously low 2 percent tax and get their black money whitened both within the country and abroad. Extremely worried about the precarious economic situation, the caretaker government, with its limited mandate to fix the faltering economy, has urged the bankers to play their role in making the tax amnesty scheme successful and the first dollar based saving certificate for overseas Pakistanis to shore up the critically low foreign currency reserves.

For ensuring the success of the scheme, the government is ready to make amendment to the relevant laws to remove the emerging irritants. In this regard, finance minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar held meeting with the State Bank of Pakistan last week and Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) Board of directors and senior members on Monday. The minister agreed with the participants of the meeting that people declaring their assets should be allowed to pay tax from third party account. The existing rules allow the payment of tax from only the account of people declaring their assets. To incorporate the requisite amendment and remove other irritants, the minister is holding a meeting of all regulators and stakeholders to review them and take appropriate decision for their removal. The tax amnesty scheme will expire on June 30 and 12 days are left.

The PML-N government announced the tax amnesty scheme on the advocacy of Pakistan Banking Council (PCB). Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was made to believe that time is ripe to attract offshore investment by Pakistanis due to tightening control against tax evaders by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He was then convinced that OECD will make it difficult to retain the untaxed money abroad. Such amnesty will provide a golden opportunity to billionaire politicians and business magnates to repatriate their hidden fortune—lest they are found violating global fiscal laws—was the opinion of Dr. Ishrat Hussain, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan. Four and a half months have passed but the miracle predicted by the former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan has not occurred.

Like other developing countries, by and large, the past experiences of tax amnesties were not an enviable one in Pakistan. It has seen mixed outcomes from such amnesties. In 1958, under Field Marshall Ayub Khan military government, Pakistan’s first tax amnesty scheme brought 71,289 people in the tax net. The new taxpayers declared Rs. 1.3 billion in assets. In 1969, General Yahya Khan amnesty added new 19,600 tax payers with declared assets of Rs. 920 million. The success rate of tax amnesty schemes declined further. In 1976. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto could collect Rs. 270 million through tax amnesty scheme. In 1986, general Ziaul Haq attempted tax amnesty but met with little success or no success. In 1997, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could add only Rs. 141 million through tax amnesty.

In 2000, general Musharraf government launched a campaign for documentation of the economy which was a right step and could have succeeded appreciably, but it fell prey to the rigidity of tax machinery. Nevertheless, it resulted in the tax collection of about 3 billion dollars. In 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced three tax amnesty schemes under which the government expected to bring a million tax payers into the tax net. But in actual terms only 128 people participated.

The legitimacy of fourth tax amnesty scheme, which is offshore assets specific, was critically evaluated in print and on electronic media by tax experts and renowned audit firms. The majority opinion was that it is well beyond the mandate of government to announce a tax amnesty scheme at the fag-end of its tenure without the approval of the Council of Common Interest, which is a constitutional necessity. Does the caretaker government have the mandate to amend laws to allow offshore account holders to pay a tax at very low rate of 2 percent on their ill- gotten wealth stashed away into offshore accounts and immovable properties? What will be the reaction of the international watchdog against money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to the amendments to tax laws for appeasing the offshore account holders? FATF is holding its meeting this month to put Pakistan back on the grey-list of countries which have weak anti-money laundering and counterterrorism laws.


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Chronic problem of power outages

The Power Division has claimed that Rs. 93. 5 billion have been spent over the past five years to improve the power transmission and distribution and distribution network that could not bear the electricity load. But still frequent power break downs occur and there is no reduction in the load shedding of longer duration despite the increase in power generation capacity. According to a presentation given by Power Division up gradation and rehabilitation work has been completed on  748 km transmission lines of four500 KV grid station (megavolt ampere MVA) and 13 grid stations of 220 KV(10, 219 MWA) and 2293 km transmission lines. The transmission network is spread over 5772 km and 10523 km for 500 KV and 220 KV grid stations.

The claim of power division runs contrary to the ground realities. A partial system breakdown had occurred on May 16, 2018 in the wake of failure of reactor at Gudu power plant and the system was split between North and South. Later the system was stabilized but again broke down due to early outages of recently commissioned liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plants at Haveli Bahdur Shah and Bhiki in the central region. Another breakdown had occurred on May 21 after 500 KV and 220 KV auto-transformers at Rawat grid stations stopped working which was followed by cascade tripping. The system tripped when generation at Tarbella and Mangla hydel power stations stood low and Nandipur thermal power plant was shut down for maintenance which excessively increased the load on Rawat grid station.

The power transmission system is 45 years old and utter neglect of its up- gradation has rendered it dilapidated. The obsolete and worn out transmission and control structure is causing frequent power outages by tripping in grid stations. The caretaker federal minster for energy Barister Ali Zafar said in press conference that apart from other factors, it is also the weak power transmission and distribution system that is causing load shedding. The electricity generation is higher but the transmission and distribution system is not able to pick it.The Minster disclosed the power plants can generate 21000 to 22000 megawatt at present and minimum demand of electricity is 23000 to 24000 megawatt, registering a gap of 2000 megawatt.

The PML-N government adopted a policy not to provide electricity to areas where power theft and line losses were high but even then most of the grid stations get frequently tripped due to system overload and imbalance. The government could not get the promised amount of investment for the improvement of electricity transmission network under the much touted and eulogized CPEC frame work. The Mitiari-Lahore transmission line project remained a non-starter. The Economic Coordination Committee in meeting on 27th April again gave seven month extension to Chinese Company for starting of work on this $ 1.7 billion power transmission project.

The extension in the deadline was given to achieve the financial close for the construction of 660 kilovolt high voltage direct current Mitiari-Lahore transmission line scheme till December 2018. The project faced trouble since the beginning. At the time of Chinese President Xi Jing Ping visit to Pakistan it ws decided that the project would be made operational by September 2017, while the financial close had been scheduled for December 2015. It has now been deferred to the end of current Calendar year. The revised data is three years behind the original schedule.

As a desperate move, the government had to knock at the door of World Bank (WB) for piecemeal improvement and up-gradation of transmission and distribution system. However, due to a delay in the bureaucratic procedures, six months after its approval the WB on Wednesday signed a $ 425 million loan agreement for upgrading the faulty power transmission system. In sharp contrast to the high interest bearing short-term Chinese commercial loans under CPEC, the WB commercial loans have been acquired with low interest rate and fairly long returning period of 21 years including a grace period of six years.

The loans will be spent on modernizing the national transmission network by rehabilitating the 500 kilovolt and 220 kilovolt substations and transmission lines. The existing power transmission system has the capacity to carry about 15000to 17000 megawatt of electricity which is substantially lower than the peak load of 21000-23000 megawatt. The objective of the project is to increase the load carrying capacity and reliability of selected segments of the national transmission system and modernize key business process of National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NDTC).

Aging and inadequate transmission and distribution system has exacerbated the problem of power outages. The WB has rightly assessed that Pakistan’s recent efforts had been focused on increasing power generation capacity, but aging and unreliable transmission and distribution system imposed sever constraints. There have been several instances of major system collapses which appear to increasing either because of system overloading or inherent imbalances in it. The power transmission and control system urgently needs thorough modernization.

The project will support investment in high priority transmission infrastructure, information and communication technology (ICT) and technical assistance for improved management and operation. The total cost of the project is $ 536.33 million. The WB will provide $ 425 million whereas the remaining $ 111.33 million will be arranged by NDTC. After completion of this project, a target of three fourth reductions in forced outages and 50 percent reduction in frequency of forced outages will be achieved. About 131 kilometer long transmission lines are planned to be rehabilitated and 36 new substations will be constructed. It reveals that billions of dollars investment will be required for power transmission and distribution network to solve the problem of power outages in the country once and for all.



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COAS visit of Kabul

Chief of Army of Staff, General Qamar JavedBajwa in his visit of Kabul, held one-on-one meeting with Afghan President Asraf Ghani and engaged in a delegation level discussion on issues of bilateral interest. He also met with Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and commander US forces Jhon Nicholson. In meetings with Afghan leadership various issues came under discussion between both sides including on going efforts of reconciliation in Afghanistan, measures needed to check the rise of militant Islamic State (IS) group and terrorist outfits benefiting from the porous Pak-Afghan border to indulge in terrorism, smuggling and drug trafficking.

Afghan President had announced that police and army troops will halt hostilities with Taliban for eight days from June 12to 19. But he warned that operation against other insurgent groups including IS will continue. Reciprocating the afghan government temporary ceasefire initiative, Talban has put on hold their fighting campaign during three days of Eid-ul-Fitr. These developments have raised the optimism about building of trust between the Afghan government and Taliban.

Pakistan has remained actively engaged in all peace initiatives. It actively participated in tripartite jump-start conference with China and Russia that was held in Moscow in December, 2016. It attended the follow up regional peace initiative in which Afghanistan and India also participated in February 2017. Pakistan participated in the a12 party international peace conference hosted by Russia in Moscow in April, 2017. The United States was invited to that conference but it skipped that important moot for peace in this region.

To further buttress the diplomatic efforts for restoring peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan remained engaged in trilateral talks held in Beijing to explore ways and means for ending the prolonged Afghan War. It is believed that Pakistan and China has played a crucial rule for the temporary ceasefire between the afghan government and Taliban. It is now for the United States to earnestly contribute to efforts made for peace and stability in Afghanistan with a view to bring all stakeholders to the negotiation table for a political settlement of this issue.

There is change of perception in the United States about the threat of terrorists groups to peace in the world. The emergence of triangular cold war between the United States, Russia and China has pushed the fight against the menace of global terrorism to the backburner in Washington. Pentagon now officially says the long war against international terrorism is drawing to close. It argues that US must bolster its competitive military advantage relative to the threats posed by China and Russia. In their assessment inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism is now the primary concern in the US national security. It concludes the US dominated global order today is challenged not by Al-Qaeda and IS but aggressive behavour of China and Russia.

A permanent campaign to contain China and Russia has been started by the US in Eurasia and its military has committed itself to a three front geo-political strategy to resist Chinese and Russian advances in Asia, Europe and Middle East. This reveals the US plan of a long term presence in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban has visualized this scenario. The Taliban Chief Mullah Akhunzada has reiterated his demand for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan what he called a permanent solution for getting out of Afghan quagmire. It is time the US must play a leading role in the resolution of Afghan conflict instead of becoming part of the problem.


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US-North Korea summit

After a prolonged era of hostilities between the United States and North Korea, that spanned over almost seven decades, a first ever summit meeting took place on Sentosa Island in Singapore between President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un. The two leaders signed what was described a comprehensive deal in front of international camera crews. The American President was full of praise for his “very smart” North Korean counterpart, describing their “very special bond “and total shift in Washington relationship with Pyongyang.

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to attack the US, after decades of hostilities and suspicion since the 1950-53 Korean War. Trump increasingly hit back with his own rhetoric when he took office last year. The North Korean leader Kim told reporters at Capella Hotel that they have chosen to “leave the past behind.”Trump also confirmed he would invite the North’s leader to the White House.

The deal signed by the two leaders envisage the US commitment to provide security guarantees to North Korea in return for Pyongyang’s firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization. The agreement included an outline of Trump and Kim vow to establish new relations to build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

The hostilities between the US and North Korea dates back to the Cold War era of 1950s. As a product of it Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United states into two regions North and South. Both claimed to be the legitimate governments of all Korea and neither accepted the borders as permanent. The conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces supported by the Soviet Union and China moved into South on 25th June 1950. The UN Security Council authorized the formation and dispatch of UN forces to Korea to repel what was recognized as North Korean invasion. Twenty countries of UN contributed to that force, with the United States providing 90 percent of the military personnel.

After the first two months the US and South Korean forces were on the point of defeat, and forced back to a small area in the South known as Pusan perimeter. But in September 1950, an amphibious UN forces attack was launched at Inch eon, and cut off many North Korean troops. Those who escaped envelopment and capture were forced back to North Korea. UN forces rapidly approached the Yalu River near the China border, which compelled it to formally enter the war theater. In October 1950, mass Chinese forces cross the Yalu River and took on the UN forces led by the US commander General Macarthur. The surprise Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces which continued until 1951.

After these reversals, which saw Seoul change hands of fortunes, the last two years fighting became a war of attrition. North Koreans were subjected to massive US bombing campaigns. Jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat for the first time in history, and Soviet pilots flew covertly in defense of their Communist allies.

The fighting ended on 27th July 1953, when an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea and allowed the return of war prisoners. However, no peace treaty was signed and the two sides technically remained at war for the next seven decades, engaged in a frozen conflict. In April 2018, the leaders of the North and South Korea met at demilitarized zone to sign a peace treaty by the end of the year to formally end the Korean War.

North Korea started its nuclear programme in the decade of 1980s. It built its first nuclear facility in early 80s. Later, North Korea ratified Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but pursued its ambition for building the nuclear arsenals. In 2003 North Korea walked out of NPT and admitted that it runs a Uranium enrichment programme to build nuclear weapons, a violation of the agreement framework of NPT. A diplomatic initiative was launched in October 2003 known as the six party talks, comprising North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the US. But it produced no breakthrough.

In October, 2006 North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test. However, the diplomacy for denuclearizing North Korea slowly and steadily moved on. In 2009, US President Barak Obama administration officials held their first bilateral meetings with their North Korean counterparts to revive the six party talks on the latter’s nuclear programme. However, diplomatic isolation the North Korean nuclear programme moved on to advanced stages. It conducted its sixth nuclear test. But the shrewd diplomacy of South Korea, eventually, succeeded. The South Korean   security Advisor announced in March in Washington that President Trump has accepted invitation to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May. The US-North Korea summit took place in Singapore a month later and the denuclearization deal was signed. It remains to be seen as to whether the 20000 plus US troops present in South Korea shall be withdrawn or will be kept for further long period as China containment policy in the South Asia.



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Tapping the export potential

Exports are steadily on the rise. According to the data revealed by the State Bank of Pakistan, the growth in exports has been positive over the past 11 months, showing an average increase of 11 percent. This is a reversal of the trend that prevailed during July 2014 to April 2017. The exports growth has been consistently negative over that period. All major product groups showed a positive export growth during July 2017 and April 2018 over the same period FY 17.

Exports of food group rose by 31 percent and manufactured groups went up by 17 percent. From food group one item kinnow export touched a record high at 370000 tons in 2017-18 went up by 45000 tons in previous year. It fetched foreign exchange earnings of $ 222 million. There was also significant increase in the exports of un-milled wheat and sugar. Export of knitwear and ready made garments went up by 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively. If Pakistan implements the Bangladesh model of producing the finest quality of these products with technology improvement and the best human resource application, their exports can be significantly increased both in terms of quantity, quality and value. Not a single cotton crop is grown in Bangladesh but its exports from textile products alone are $ 27 billion, $ 3 billion more than the targeted total exports of Pakistan for the current fiscal year. The export of raw cotton surged by 39 percent and that of chemicals and pharmaceuticals also showed a satisfactory growth.

The commercial councilors, trade attaches and trade ministers posted in our embassies, particularly in the Latin American region countries, Central Asia, Baltic States, East European and African countries with bright prospects of exports did no efforts for diversifying the export market. The commerce minister is still in hibernation. Top export destinations for Pakistani products were the United States, the United Kingdom, China Afghanistan and Germany. Exports to the US stood at $ 3.18 billion, while to the UK they amounted to $ 1.47. Shipments to the US increased by 5.4 percent and to the UK by 10.6 percent respectively.

Interestingly, exports to Afghanistan showed a significant increase of 34.15 percent. Exports to China are estimated at $ 1.44 billion higher by 5.28 percent. Despite the rising tend of exports, which may help achieve the target of $ 28 billion in the fiscal year 2018-19, the imports are also on the upward trajectory. Cumulatively, imports increased to 55.2 billion in the past 11 months as reported by Pakistan Bureau of statistics. The current account deficit has reached to $ 33.9 billion. The monthly import bill has reached to $ 5.8 billion.

It is imperative that Pakistani manufacturers ensure the most efficient use of inputs obtained from domestic and international markets. Bulk of the raw material and intermediate goods should have the manufacturing facility inside the country to make for the losses that may accrue in its import from international market due to currency depreciation. Rupee is constantly losing its value against the major world currencies. The interbank rate of US dollar has reached to Rs. 119.15 and in the open market the value of one dollar has gone up to Rs. 121. Producers of consumer’s goods as well as intermediate goods must participate in the global value chain. This can help competitiveness of domestic production and consequently total exports of Pakistan. A vibrant domestic manufacturing sector for the raw material and intermediate goods is necessary to promote economic growth.

The International Trade Center of Export Potential Map suggests that Pakistan has an untapped export potential of 12.8 billion dollars. Exports to the current top destinations are below the available demand in their markets. Similarly, the most commonly exported textile products still have a significant untapped potential. Exports of gem and jewelry can be enhanced by their value addition. India is earning $ 4 billion from the exports of well cut and polished gemstones. It imports raw gem from Afghanistan and with value addition it earns billions of dollars of foreign exchange. On the other hand Pakistan is producing high quality of gemstone but its exports are stagnant at $ 100 million, mostly raw gem stones. The government has not facilitated the private sector to establish the gemological centers keeping in view the Jaipur model of India. Hopefully, the next government will focus on exploiting the untapped export potential of the country to overcome the alarming trade gape and encourage exports led growth of the economy.



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Resolving ongoing water crisis

The ruling political elite deliberately ignored issue of water crisis in future since 1975. They remained oblivious of its grave consequences of climate change effect causing long spell of droughts, devastating floods, and desertification of the agricultural land under cultivation. After the last attempt by a Sindhi Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo early 1985, no serious efforts were made by successive governments to create awareness about the merits and demerits of Kalabagh dam on the basis of valid technical data.

Alternatives of this dam were discussed but concrete decisions were not made about the planning and execution of the storage dams including Diyamer Basha, Katzara and Skardu dams. It was a few months ago that a national water policy was approved in the meeting of Council of Common Interest and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the construction of water reservoir alone of Diyamer Basha dam on the river Indus upstream Tarbella and Monda storage dam with power station of 730 megawatt. Initial allocations of funds have also been made in the next year federal budget for these two projects which is a welcome step if implemented.

Realizing the anxiety of the people over the prevailing water shortages and colossal yearly loss of water resources of $ 21 billion, Barister Zafarullah Khan had filed a petition at Karachi Registry of Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking a referendum on the contentious issue of building Kalabagh dam. Hearing the petition the top court on Saturday set up a core committee, comprising of water experts, to resolve the water crisis and build the alterative hydropower projects. During the hearing of this petition, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said that controversial projects like Kalabagh dam should only be built with the consensus of all four provinces. He said, “Overcoming water shortage is a matter of life and death for the country. We will not discuss the Kalabagh dam issue right now, as it has the potential of affecting many people. We have to evolve consensus among all provinces on this issue. We must now focus on averting the impending water crises.”Among the Committee members will be Aitizaz Ahsan and former Chairmen WAPDA Shamsul Mulk and Zafar Mahmood. Other experts will later be nominated to the Committee. The Chief Justice of Pakistan will personally monitor this Committee to resolve the issue of water scarcity on priority basis.

The CJP said, “After Eid-ul- Fitr the Law and Justice department will convene seminars for raising public awareness and generating debates. Recommendations will be referred Parliament, enabling the government to formulate relevant laws for implementations. The former Chairmen WAPDA, particularly Engineer Shamsul Mulk has a vast experience about the feasibility studies and implementation procedures of big dams by virtue of his experience in building Tarbella dam. He has also been a project director of Kalabagh dam project when its technical feasibility was being prepared, land was being acquired and sources of foreign funding were being sought for. He is the leading supporter of this dam. The technical members will identify a number of feasible sites for big dams on river Indus and even on river Chenab to provide irrigation water in Punjab province.

In Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, the water projects including Chisma Right Bank Canal and Kurram Tangi dam projects also need implementation on priority basis. Hopefully, the next government will treat the issue of water shortages as national urgency and will make comprehensive legislation by utilizing the valuable input from the core committee for resolving the water crisis in vast national interest.


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Islamphobia, a new tide

It appears that Islamphobia has now been very much pressing hard the nerves of political leadership in the West European countries and the phenomenon has assumed a new dimension. The action against Muslim communities has gone beyond passing legislations to virtual crack down against them. The new tide has anti-Turkic connotation. Austria will shut down seven mosques and expel 40 imams, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Friday. During a news conference with Vice Chancellor Heinz Chrsitian Strache and European Affairs Minister Gernot Blumel, Kurz said the move came as part of crackdown on “political Islam.”

The Austrian Chancellor said that the investigations on several mosques and associations had been conducted and office of Religious Affairs had concluded that the activities of seven mosques were found to be forbidden—one of them belonging to a Turkish Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB). He said that the Imams would be deported on grounds of being foreign funded. It is pertinent to mention that a few months ago Turkish mosques and religious centers were attacked and burnt in Germany allegedly by the militants’ affiliated Kurdish organization including PKK and PYD. France and the United States are openly supporting these militant organizations.

A few days ago the Danish Parliament passed a law banning full-face Islamic veil. The anti-Muslim legislation was presented by the Center-right government and was backed by Social Democrats and far-right Danish Party. The legislation was supported by 75 lawmakers whereas 30 opposed it. It will take effect from August 1.

The legislation has made wearing “Burqa” or ‘Niqab’ a cognizable offence liable to a fine of 1000 Kroner if wore once. But repeated violations will be fined up to 10000 Kroner. France was the first European country to ban wearing ‘Niqab’ in public places and the law in this regard took effect in 2011. It was totally flabbergasting that the European Court of Human Rights last year upheld a Belgian ban on wearing full-face veil in public

The political leadership in the West European countries has so far remained contented with making legislations that impinge upon the religious rights of Muslims’ communities living there. But the Austrian government has decided to go to the extent of crack down on them merely because of their being practicing Muslims.

In a country like the UK where discriminatory laws against Muslims are not on the Statue Book, even there a far-right group distributed a letter in April urging the Christians to observe a “Hate Muslims Day.”Although different communities strongly reacted against it yet there were incident of stabbing in which a Muslim woman was killed. But the fatal punching of a teenage Egyptian girl Mariam Moustafa by a group of racist English girls at an stone throw distance from a busy shopping Mall in Nottingham points to the emerging dangerous trend of violence and hate against Muslims.

The new tide against Muslims in the form of closure of Mosques and deportation of Imams in the West European countries has a linkage with the growing influence of Turkey in the Balkan Muslim states like Albania and Kosovo, European countries with big Turkish communities and Turkey’s fast expanding economic cooperation with Christian Bulgaria and Serbia. Close historic, religious and cultural ties make Turkey a natural partner for western Balkan countries with sizeable Muslim population such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. More surprising for the West European for the Countries is the blossoming trade and political relationship with Serbia, where once anti-Turkish sentiment was widespread. Serbian main highway, part of the artery linking Turkey with Western Europe, illustrates the change. In recent years billboards in Turkish have sprung up advertising hotels and restaurants for weary truck drivers. Signs pointing out the nearest mosque tend to use the Turkish word Mescit rather than the Serbian word Zamija. This reminds the present day political leadership the haunting memories of the grandeur of Ottoman Empire that had large parts of Europe under its rule.

The volume of trade between Turkey and Serbia is growing besides huge investment of Turkish Companies in infrastructure projects. But it is not Turkey’s economic progress in the Balkan states that worries Ankara western allies. They fear Turkey may gain political influence at the expense of Brussels. They are also apprehensive of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bold, aggressive and assertive foreign policy in the conduct of world affairs. But the European leadership must not forget that anti-Muslim legislations and crack down on Muslim scholars will push back the hitherto tolerant and liberal western society to ‘Draconian Era’ of Church’s Inquisitions.



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Hoodwinking public opinion

Instead of accepting the responsibility of their deliberate failure to construct water reservoirs that pushed the country into acute water shortages, the political elite is now bent upon hoodwinking the public opinion which is building up and gaining momentum in the support of Kalabagh dam.. After the stereotype and devoid of substance recent statements of ANP leadership against this most feasible and willingly fundable hydropower project by international donor agencies, former leader of opposition in the National Assembly Khursid Shah has also jumped on the bandwagon of anti-Kalabagh dam lobby. He said that the Council of Common Interest (CCI) should have a final call on this mega project.

Referring to a two years old petition being heard at the Supreme Court regarding this project, Shah said the apex court should allow the council to look into the issue since three provincial legislatures, the Sindh. Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa had passed resolutions against this project. In April, the top court sought a reply from the federal government over the measures taken for the construction of water reservoirs after it began hearing a petition on depletion of existing water reservoirs by 2025.

The construction of Kalabagh dam was not a controversial issue before the decade of 1980s. Its launching was very much in the pipeline in mid 70s. Land had already acquired and the construction of residential colonies for WAPDA officials had to be started. At that time none to political parties and provincial governments raised objections to this project. Even the coalition government of National Awami Party and Jamiate-e -Ulema Islam (1972-73) in KP did not say a single word against Kalbagh dakm.

A Sindhi Prime Minster Mohammad Khan Junejo had almost succeeded to achieve the consensus of federating units for the construction of Kalabagh dam but Chairman WAPDA did not agree to the proposal of KP government that was aimed at resolving a few minor technical issues in the cabinet meeting held in Governor’s House Peshawar in 1985. It gave a golden opportunity to ANP leadership to make Kalabagh dam project politically controversial. PPP and Sindhi nationalist parties joined the anti-Kalbagh dam chorus much later. The leaderships of these political parties have failed to support their stance against this multidimensional project of supreme national interest by technical data. Merely hollow political statements are issued and anti-Kalabagh dam resolutions are passed in the provincial legislatures in compliance with one man say is the order of day for deriving political capital at the expense of national interest. The outcome is nothing but the looming water crisis.