issue
Well-packaged
Though Islamabad claims to have addressed the backwardness of Balochistan by issuing development packages, it has yet to answer some fundamental questions
By Naveed Ahmad
The federal government recently announced a development package for Balochistan including Rs 2.5 billion for parliamentarians for developing their constituencies, Rs 1 billion for the development of Quetta, Rs 3.8 billion for the 38 districts in the province with Rs 100 million for each, establishment of seven cadet colleges and two campuses of the Balochistan University (at Gwadar and Turbat), 1,000 scholarships worth Rs 120,000 for students from Balochistan who have completed 16 years of study, quota for Baloch students at the Ordnance Factories, Aeronautical complex and the Taxila Heavy Industries, and electrification of all villages by 2009.

Another port
What happened inside Balochistan Assembly on the announcement of a new port in Sonmiani...
By Muhammad Ejaz Khan
The differences surfaced in Jam Yousuf led coalition government in Balochistan over the construction of new port in Sonmiani area of district Lasbela. This followed President Gen Pervez Musharraf's announcement about the construction of a second port in the province on the eve of the inauguration of Gwadar deep sea port.

Denounced, expelled
The removal of the outspoken feminist Malalai Joya betrays Karzai government's hollow claims about women's advancement
By Zia-ur-Rehman
The most outspoken female MP of Afghanistan, Malalai Joya has been expelled from the parliament for speaking the truth and for her straightforwardness. The removal of this outspoken feminist demonstrates the hollowness of the claims of women's advancement under the occupation by Karzai's government. Wolisi Jirga (National Assembly) voted to suspend Malalai Joya, one outspoken woman among the 68 women legislators, for three years from the legislature, citing that she had broken Article 70 of the Parliament, which had banned Wolesi Jirga members from openly criticising each other. Joya had regarded the Wolesi Jirga as 'worse than a zoo' in a recent television interview, and later called other members of parliament "criminals" and "drug smugglers". She was a relentless critic of the warlords and assorted war criminals in the Karzai's government.

En-'gendered' species
Though women are provided a constitutional right to participate in politics, the state of affairs remains different, especially in NWFP
By Yousaf Ali
Nageena Jan, a lady councillor in Swabi district government, managed to get 2030 ladies registered in six union councils of her district besides encouraging 25 more women on taking part in next elections to play her due in overcoming the sorry state pertaining to female participation in electoral system in the backward North West Frontier Province and adjacent tribal belt.

development
A missing dimension
Transparency in mega development projects has become a world wide concern due to the sophisticated corrupt practices
By Dr Noman Ahmed
Events leading to the opening of development projects of various colours and hues in Sonmiani -- a sleepy and serene coastal town in Balochistan -- have added more substance to the ongoing controversies regarding development policies.

Political
philosophy

The second part of the genesis of Talibanisation...
By Raza Rahman Khan Qazi
Dr. Fazal Rahim Marwat, who is a Assistant Professor at Pakistan Study Centre, University of Peshawar, and has written two books 'Talibanization of Pakistan' and 'Mujhajir to Mujahid' told TNS he did not think there was some special political philosophy both of Taliban Islamic Movement in Afghanistan or Pakistani Taliban.

essay
The power of the media
The media itself cannot foment political, and more importantly, social change. In a best-case scenario it can act as a catalyst. Thus there's very little possibility that TV may actually mobilise people into some kind of political action.
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
It has been said that the electronic media has played a revolutionary role in the ongoing lawyer-led movement against dictatorship. There can be little debate over the centrality of the media to the whole Chief Justice affair; while the protagonists of the movement laud the role of private TV channels, General Pervez Musharraf reproaches them for being 'irresponsible' and inciting passions against the sitting government. One way or the other, there is a definitively new player on the political scene in Pakistan, and its importance must not be understated.

Death Bill
Despite the dissatisfaction of the majority of Americans Bush & Co. have been able to get another war bill approved by the Congress
By Aziz Omar
The American taxpayers must be twiddling their thumbs over the massive $122 billion dollar war bill that President George W. Bush has approved. Initially, the Republicans led by the 'leader of the free world' had asked the Congress for around $100 billion. Now, the Democrats, already having lost out on the demand for a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, recommended additional $17 billion. This is odd, keeping in view that the Democrats won the midterm elections in November last year on the very agenda of winding down American military operations in Iraq.

 

The economy of energy
By Jazib Zahir
Fueling the Future:
Meeting Pakistan's Energy Needs in the 21st century
Edited by: Robert M. Hathaway, Bhumika Muchhala, Michael Kugelman
Published by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholarr

issue
Well-packaged

The federal government recently announced a development package for Balochistan including Rs 2.5 billion for parliamentarians for developing their constituencies, Rs 1 billion for the development of Quetta, Rs 3.8 billion for the 38 districts in the province with Rs 100 million for each, establishment of seven cadet colleges and two campuses of the Balochistan University (at Gwadar and Turbat), 1,000 scholarships worth Rs 120,000 for students from Balochistan who have completed 16 years of study, quota for Baloch students at the Ordnance Factories, Aeronautical complex and the Taxila Heavy Industries, and electrification of all villages by 2009.

The package also includes an increase in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocation for Balochistan from Rs 2 billion rupees to Rs 30 billion. Earlier, Musharraf also promised to write off six billion rupees worth of loans owed by fishermen and farmers in Balochistan.

Though Islamabad claims to have gone a few extra miles in addressing the backwardness of Balochistan, in terms of allocating more fund for the province's development, it has yet to answer some fundamental questions. Winning the hearts and minds of the Baloch people remains a far cry for a military ruler. Some Baloch leaders draw parallels between Musharraf's special packages with the Ayub regime's development plans for East Pakistan of the 1960s.

The nationalist leadership continues to reject the recent development packages announced by the Musharraf regime. Sanaullah Baloch, former parliamentarian who resigned after Bugti's death told TNS in an interview: "General Musharraf has not announced any package for Balochistan. It's all propaganda and drama." He alleges that China and Pakistan are collaborating to build the Gwadar port and no Baloch consent was sought before making the deal with the Chinese people.

Sanaullah explains: "There is no development project about Kohlu as Rs 450 million have been earmarked for the establishment of a cantonment there and another Rs 450 million for a road to a gas well there. The remaining amount in the so called package was announced some nine years ago for Sibbi and Dera Murad Jamali road. The money has never been  released for the past nine years by Islamabad. From lack of clean drinking water to other amenities of life, everything is missing in the district."

The government blames the Baloch nationalists of politicising the development issues and keeping the people backward which serves the sardars' and nawabs' interests. The Baloch nationalist responds: "This grave misconception has been deliberately created by the military and the intelligence agencies. Ahead of establishing Gwadar port, we had been demanding setting up of a marine biological institute and a mineral development research institute near Sandak to train the local people. Similarly we had been demanding establishment of arid agriculture research institute to tap the enormous potential in the province. We want the government to abolish the FC and instead raise an army of teachers. I can also bet no one would oppose opening of universities and schools in Balochistan."

The development experts continue to ponder as to whether these special packages are able to address the cause of Balochistan's alienation.

The foremost Baloch concern that they've been denied their right to self-rule. The sense of alienation has grown manifold during the Musharraf regime and the  military's unusual attention towards the province. The other key concern of the Baloch nationalist remains the exploitation of their natural resources such as land, petroleum and other minerals.

After Gwadar, the Baloch people are now frantically reacting to the news of development of a new port in Sonmiani.  Even the pro-Musharraf Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, Muhammad Aslam Bhootani, demanded of the federal government to take elected representatives and population of the area into confidence before launching any mega project in the province.

An elected member of the provincial assembly from Hub and Sonmiani constituency, Bhootani said the people of Balochistan were not against the development process but the federal government must take the local people into confidence first before starting any new  project in the area.

"The people of the area must know how the proposed project would benefit them, and they should have a guarantee that they won't face any discrimination in jobs and other matters," he  said. He referred to the Gwadar Port project and said reservations and apprehensions of the local people were yet to be removed by the federal government about the project.

The deputy speaker said the federal government had learnt no lesson from the Gwadar situation and it was now taking important decisions about Sonmiani without taking the area representatives and people into confidence. "The outcome of the Sonmiani mega project will  be no different from Gwadar," Bhootani claimed. He further said that Sonmiani was just 80 kilometres from Karachi and influx of outsiders was causing a demographic imbalance and this trend must be checked.

The suspicions have arisen ever since an MQM leader has been appointed minister for  shipping and ports.

The sabotage attacks as well as suspicions about the centre's projects in the region would continue to hamper Islamabad's desire for development and prosperity of the province until the core issue of provincial autonomy is not resolved. Despite parliamentary bodies in place, the matter has remained in cold storage for mysterious reasons.

Secondly a decision that population will not be the sole basis of the NFC awards will make the Baloch, the Sindhi and the Pakhtun happier than any special development package. As such, there should be no shortage of funds if priorities are right and followed  scrupulously. Here, the official proclivity for the grandiose must be avoided. Instead of large projects, the answer lies in grassroots schemes tailored to the needs of a specific area. This is particularly important in a province where many people cannot afford to travel to distant locales and where the road network leaves much to be desired.

Thirdly, the government should spell out clear role for the military and para-military troops present in Balochistan with strict parliamentary oversight on the complaints received. At the same time, the provincial assembly must be consulted on key issues ranging from establishment of cantonments to development of ports and industrial zones. Last but not the least, the process of traditional consultation on the lines of jirga system tried in volatile North Waziristan should be put in place for bridge-building and peacekeeping roles.

With growing penetration of TV sets and Internet, the understanding of the Baloch concerns has considerably grown across the nation, including the armed forces. With greater access to media especially TV news channels, the objective of confidence building and mutual understanding can be better achieved.

 

Another port

  By Muhammad Ejaz Khan

The differences surfaced in Jam Yousuf led coalition government in Balochistan over the construction of new port in Sonmiani area of district Lasbela. This followed President Gen Pervez Musharraf's announcement about the construction of a second port in the province on the eve of the inauguration of Gwadar deep sea port.

What happened in Balochistan Assembly was surprising to say the least because not only MMA, a major coalition partner, but some ministers and deputy speaker belonging to PML-Q also voted against the proposed port. Apparently the work at Gwadar port has been affected badly after the announcement of a new port; some multinationals too have stopped investing in Gwadar.

After the now somewhat stale issues like deteriorating law and order situation, terrorism, wheat scandal, backwardness and development projects in general, the construction of Sonmiani port emerged as a new issue in the House. After leader of Opposition Kachkol Ali Baloch of National Party moved a resolution in the house opposing the proposed port, the treasury and opposition benches rejected the resolution. All the members of treasury and opposition benches expressed their apprehensions about the proposed port. Interestingly, when the resolution was moved for acceptance or rejection, all members of the ruling party left the house one by one, except deputy speaker of Balochistan assembly Muhammad Aslam Bhootani, who belongs to PML-Q.

The rejection of the port is understandable, as is the suspicion with which almost any federal project is viewed in the province.

Whenever the Balochistan Assembly had passed a resolution in the House rejecting any idea of the federal government related to the province, the resolution had to go to into cold storage. The reasons may vary. This time too all the Baloch nationalist parties are still opposing the Gwadar port and the announcement of Sonmiani port has given them another card for another decade.

"If the government starts work on the Sonmiani port before the the Gwadar deep sea port becomes operational, it would only further increase the apprehensions of the people of Balochistan," said Balochistan senior minister Maulana Wasey while taking part in the debate in the House.

"We told President Gen Pervez Musharraf during his recent visit to Quetta that the proposed port had already created apprehensions. People think that the US wants to foil the Gwadar port because of the presence of China. It seems that neither the Gwadar port nor Sonmiani port would be completed," Maulana Wasey said. He informed the Balochistan Assembly that federal minister for Shipping Babar Ghauri had asked the provincial government, in an official meeting, to allot half a million acres of land in Sonmiani at the rate of one rupee per acre. "If this is the case of the new port then it will be easy to understand how brutally the resources of Balochistan are being plundered."

"During this day and age, nobody can afford to oppose development. Why are the people of Balochistan doing so? Perhaps, because of the bitter pills which they have experienced in Sui, Gwadar and so called 130 billion worth of mega projects. We will welcome that development which will protect the interests of the people of Balochistan. Unfortunately, when we talk about the interests of Balochistan we are termed anti-development elements," said deputy speakers Muhammad Aslam Bhootani of PML-Q.

According to Bhootani, whose family has dominated Lasbela politics since 1970, neither he nor Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousuf, who belongs to the same district, were consulted before the project was announced. If so, this is hardly the way to go about winning the hearts and minds of the Baloch people and their representatives. Bhootani remarked that neither the people of Balochistan nor of district Lasbela would get any benefit from the proposed port if it is constructed and it seems that the district Lasbela was being merged in Sindh.

Maulana Wasey claimed on the floor of the House that the Sonmiani port was a conspiracy hatched by MQM which wants ultimately to merge the coastal district with Sindh. Some other legislators even observed that Sonmiani port was the brainchild of the MQM leadership which, they alleged, wanted to capture the coastal belt of Sindh and Balochistan to set up 'Jinnahpur'. References were also made to a statement attributed to the federal minister for inter-provincial coordination, who had reportedly said that a district can be carved out of one province and merged with another federating unit through a simple majority vote in the National Assembly.

It is worth asking if there is a need for another port situated so close to Karachi? If it is, the government should wait until Gwadar is fully operational and then assess Sonmiani's feasibility in a few years time.


Denounced, expelled

  By Zia-ur-Rehman

The most outspoken female MP of Afghanistan, Malalai Joya has been expelled from the parliament for speaking the truth and for her straightforwardness. The removal of this outspoken feminist demonstrates the hollowness of the claims of women's advancement under the occupation by Karzai's government. Wolisi Jirga (National Assembly) voted to suspend Malalai Joya, one outspoken woman among the 68 women legislators, for three years from the legislature, citing that she had broken Article 70 of the Parliament, which had banned Wolesi Jirga members from openly criticising each other. Joya had regarded the Wolesi Jirga as 'worse than a zoo' in a recent television interview, and later called other members of parliament "criminals" and "drug smugglers". She was a relentless critic of the warlords and assorted war criminals in the Karzai's government.

This was not the first time that the 28-year-old Joya, a passionate advocate and campaigner of women's rights, has angered male MPs with her criticism. Some have thrown water bottles at her while she spoke in debates and others have threatened her with rape and murder, denounced as a 'prostitute', all of this taking place in parliament, no less. She has also escaped assassination attempts and has to regularly change her address after receiving death threats from the warlords and Taliban groups both.

Malalai Joya, born on April 25, 1979, is a controversial and renowned Afghani woman politician and human rights activist. She was only four when her family fled the country, in 1982, to the refugee camps of Pakistan and Iran, joining hundreds of thousands who had escaped the Soviet invasion three years before. She received her education in Pakistan and began teaching literacy courses to other women at age 19. Unable to keep away from her homeland even at the height of the Taliban's tyranny, Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1999 and set up a secret school and health clinic for women in the western city of Heart, and was soon a vocal enemy of the Taliban. For two years she gave lessons at great personal risk, with the Taliban banning education or work for women and forcing them under the all-enveloping burqa.

Joya also runs an NGO, Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities (OPAWC), in the Western Afghanistan. Joya achieved international attention in December 2003 when, as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) convened to ratify the Afghan Constitution, she spoke out publicly against what she termed the domination of warlords. In response, Sibghatullah Mujadidi, chief of the Loya Jirga, called her 'infidel' and 'communist'. Since then she has survived four assassination attempts, and travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards.

Joya was elected to the 249-seat National Assembly or Wolesi Jirga in September 2005, as a representative of Farah Province, winning the second highest number of votes in the province. In her interview to press, she said, "When those people put their trust in me and elected me as their representative, I decided to bring their suffering to the world's attention -- so that the world would know that even though the men and women of Afghanistan have had to live in ignorance and poverty for many years, they don't trust the Taliban or Mujahideen."

Although Joya receives numerous death threats and her home has been bombed, she has chosen to continue her stance against the inclusion of former mujahideen in the current Afghan government. In 2004, she and a delegation of 50 tribal elders persuaded President Karzai to dismiss a provincial governor who was a former Taliban commander.

"They should be taken to national and international court," Joya stated publicly at the 2003 meeting, her bravery and courage rare in a country emerging from the harsh and callous Taliban rule, under which women were barred from public life.

BBC has called Joya "the most famous woman in Afghanistan." In a January 27, 2007 interview with BBC News, Joya commented on her personal political mission amid continuous death threats, saying: "They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

Malalai Joya appeared at the Federal Convention of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) in Quebec City on September 10, 2006, supporting party leader Jack Layton and the NDP's criticism of the NATO-led mission in southern Afghanistan. She said, "No nation can donate liberation to another nation."

In January 2004, the Cultural Union of Afghans in Europe awarded her the 'Malalai of Maiwand' award for her brave speech in the Loya Jirga. In December 2004, the Valle d'Aosta province of Italy awarded her the International Women of the Year 2004 Award. On March 15, 2006, Tom Bates, Mayor of Berkeley, presented a certificate of honour to her for "her continued work on behalf of human rights". On March 2006, she got the 'Gwangju Award for Human Rights 2006' from May 18 Foundation in South Korea. In Aug 2006, the Women's Peacepower Foundation gave Joya the 'Woman of Peace Award 2006'. She was also among the '1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005'. Malalai was in Sydney, Australia, on March 8, 2007, as a guest of UNIFEM, speaking about women's rights in Afghanistan in honour of International Women's Day. The World Economic Forum selects Joya among 250 Young Global Leaders for 2007.

In April this year, Joya was in Los Angeles. She spoke to the press thus: "The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the 'Northern Alliance', which is made up of the sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, and are as dark-minded, evil, and cruel as the Taliban... The Western media talks about democracy and the liberation of Afghanistan, but the US and its allies are engaged in the warlordisation, criminalisation and drug-lordisation of our wounded land."

In 2006, The Washington Post wrote of Joya, "Her truth is that warlords should not be permitted to hide behind 'the mask of democracy to hold on to their chairs' and their pernicious pursuits at the expense of poor, 'barefoot' Afghans who remain voiceless and disillusioned. The warlords are corrupt 'war criminals' who should be tried, and incorrigible 'drug dealers' who brought the country to its knees, she said."

On September 13, she addressed a gathering in McGill University in Montreal as well as the University of Ottawa, where she expressed her disappointment with American involvement in her home country, stating that "Countries like the US have their own strategic policies in Afghanistan... As long as they support the Northern Alliance with the mask of democracy, there will never be improvement in Afghanistan."

One can see why administrators of the Karzai government and its NATO patrons have failed to champion Joya's case. Brad Adams, Director Asia at Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote in his statement: "Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and she shouldn't have been suspended from parliament".

Karzai regime did this act on the pressure of tribal chiefs, warlord as well as America. Expulsion of Joya illustrates the failures of the claims of being so-called campaigner of women rights by the Karzai's regime.

 

The writer has academic background in Women Studies and works with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Islamabad. E-mail: [email protected]

 

En-'gendered' species

  By Yousaf Ali

Nageena Jan, a lady councillor in Swabi district government, managed to get 2030 ladies registered in six union councils of her district besides encouraging 25 more women on taking part in next elections to play her due in overcoming the sorry state pertaining to female participation in electoral system in the backward North West Frontier Province and adjacent tribal belt.

Though she faced excessive hardships in the process both on part of lethargic National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and unaware people of the district. Since the district is considered politically 'mature' among the 24 districts of the province, Nageena was optimistic about achieving her target of registering at least 6000 female voters in a joint Woman Association Struggle for Development (WSAFD) Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and UNDP project before the final electoral lists are put on display at the 70,000 display centers across the country in June next.

At the same time Nageena declared the cooperation extended to her by the civil society, local politicians and common folk particularly the religious circles, as more encouraging than her expectations. Nageena served as coordinator Electoral Participatory Project that was assigned to WASFD by the ECP, with the financial assistance of UNDP. The main objective was to contribute to the improvement of women and members of socially excluded communities' participation in the elections. Besides registration of women WASFD ran various awareness sessions, seminars and workshops under the project.

Narrating her story of going door to door to first educate the women about the need of making National Identity Cards(NICs) and then importance of vote, she said she was stunned to know that more than 50 per cent of women in the areas she visited did not have NICs. "It was really hard to motivate the women to have their ID cards made and to get them registered as voters. They were surprised at the thought of going out to vote along with men. But talking to them patiently made the task easier and all those I talked to agreed to get themselves registered. They also seemed enthusiastic about availing the right to vote," Nageena told this reporter.

Convincing the so-called educated women was equally hard. But she continued her mission. Her untiring efforts made her achieve her target of producing 25 political leaders. "All the 25 women I prepared as political leaders have not only joined but availed positions in the women wings of different political parties," Nageena said.

She was confident of motivating more and more women to take part in the electoral process but she does not have any answer or solution as how to cope with a situation similar to the one that occurred in Marghuz, a major town of the district during the previous polls. In Marghuz the elders of the locality irrespective of their political affiliation gathered in the name of traditional jirga, which came up with the unanimous decision to ban women from casting votes. The jirga members were of the view that the number of female voters was not so high to make any difference; therefore they should be barred from availing their legal and constitutional right.

Such agreements were not only made in far flung and backward districts like Dir Upper, Battagram, Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat etc but also in several villages and hamlets on the suburbs of Peshawar -- the provincial metropolis -- like Sheikh Mohammadi, Tehkal Bala and others.

There are several reasons hampering women participation in elections. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its Election Watch Programme for previous general elections in the NWFP puts the reasons of low women participation as: "Women are discriminated against at the time of voting as well as at the phase of registration of voters so that a gender gap exists at both these stages, revealing many legal, social, economic, cultural, and political factors at work to deprive women of the right to exercise their vote. The gender gap reveals both the direct nature of discrimination against women, such as the patriarchal construct of the society, as well as indirect forms of discrimination, such as denial of education, transport and communication. In some instances, discrimination against women is used exploitatively by political elements to ensure electoral victories. Theoretically, women are provided constitutional and legal right to participate in politics, and these rights are further protected by an election code. But the state has failed to encourage women to use these rights and foster an environment where women can feel safe and free to exercise these rights."

An interesting situation was witnessed in Dir Upper, where the political parties including the progressive Pakistan People's Party and nationalist Awami National Party had agreed not to field female candidates in local bodies' elections. But at the eleventh hours all the parties including religious Jamaat-e-Islami in violation of their own treaty secretly submitted nomination papers for their respective candidates and over 100 female councils were elected at district, town and union council level.

Kishwar Sultan, who contested the maiden Local Government polls in 2001 and hence became the first lady to represent women in district council in the backward Dir Upper, says that the lady councillors in the entire district are not even allowed to attend meetings of the councils of which they are elected members. They are rather represented by male members of their families like brothers, husband or father despite the fact that no proxy attendance is allowed in the system. "How can I allow my wife to go to a male dominated meeting," said husband of a tehsil councillor, who has persistently been attending the meeting for the past two years only to receive the privileges meant for councilors.

"We have no share in the annual development programme. The male nazims tell us what to do with the funds," complained Tausela Bibi. Kishwar said that they were not even invited for the council's meeting and even if they come for the meetings, they are kept in separate room so that their presence in meeting could be 'avoided'. But unlike her other colleagues she is bold enough not only to attend each and every meeting of the council but also manage get her share in the ADP (though less than her male counterparts, as she says she was given Rs 80,000 in ADP against the Rs30,0000 to her male counterpart).

It was due to such discrimination with women councillors that only two candidates turned up to contest the last year's LG by-polls on 27 vacant seats. While the already lowest turnout on part of female in the district further curtailed, as only 348 ballots were polled out of the total about 8467 registered votes ie less than 5 per cent.

development
A missing dimension

Events leading to the opening of development projects of various colours and hues in Sonmiani -- a sleepy and serene coastal town in Balochistan -- have added more substance to the ongoing controversies regarding development policies.

During the past few months, many mega projects have been announced in different parts of the country by the oligarchy of federal, provincial and local government as well as their local and foreign investor cronies. They are spread out into various sectors such as real estate development, transportation and power generation. It has been observed that the adopted practices have serious irregularities which are blatant violations of financial norms and standard procedures.

In Karachi, the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) has entered into a large contract with a Malaysian firm to build an expressway along Shahrah-e-Faisal. Keeping the design and relevant issues aside, the finalisation of the deal between the two parties have been done without inviting any expression of interest from local and foreign firms. In a similar manner, the President has approved the massive beach development project which is awarded to a Gulf based firm in the same manner.

This situation is not just confined to Karachi alone. Many other urban and regional contexts of political significance are now targets of over powering investor input under the patronage of the current regime. People are made to believe that only mega projects can cause an instantaneous change in the sector by singular input. The reality is usually otherwise.

Generally referring, a mega project is defined as an enterprise of large scale, magnitude and cost overlays running into billions of rupees. Although this is too simplistic a manner to describe a mega project, in actual terms this is what they normally happen to be. In most of the cases such projects appear to be a drag on the development budget especially when one single project would account for one-third or one-fourth of the total kitty! However, the governments have very strong reasons to initiate such projects despite their technical, financial or managerial handicaps.

All these mega transactions are dubious and against the usual developmental codes that are otherwise followed in the country. Mega projects and their initiation is an otherwise sensitive matter from the stated point of their cost-benefit analysis, operational and financial relevance to the sector (in which they are being executed) as well as sustainability. The decisions to launch and finalise such projects are also kept secret. The factor of transparency has become a world wide concern in respect of development project due to the sophisticated corrupt practices adopted by some stakeholder groups. Many aspects need to be analysed in this respect.

The process of decision making related to the choice and details of development projects is the point of initial concern. It has been observed that the roles of key institutions has been muted down under authoritarian decisions taken by the prime minister or president. For instance, the Planning Commission is the key institution responsible for examining the proposals received from the various departments, ministries and autonomous bodies. Sources have claimed that it is now used as a rubber stamping post office. The conceptual decisions for the choice of projects, promoters and partners are finalised at the top most echelon. The concerned departments are asked to simply add the frills or remove the procedural bugs. The investors and their front men of all colour and hues can be found trying their luck in Islamabad. Connections with the person of decision makers or the high-ups in the regime are the sole criteria for obtain project approvals. As technical merits, procedural follow ups, link up to the economic, financial and social realities of the sector as well as transparency of approach are of little consequence, haywire projects can be found approved and facilitated. Construction of a new airport for the capital when the existing facility is grossly under utilised is an example. Choice of locations in such projects are decided without references to considerations of urban and regional planning principles!

Mega projects are conceived as high budget affairs. For instance, the once proposed Karachi Mass Transit Programme was estimated to cost Rs. 66 billion (USD 1150 million) for elevated exclusive corridors stretching up till 24 kilometres. Similarly the Lyari Expressway project would cost Rs. 24 billion while the Thal Canal Project in lower Punjab is estimated to cost Rs. 30.4 billion. Obviously large capital overlays enhances the financial control of the ruling cadres who also derive the flexibility of diverting this money to other avenues of expenditure.

Besides the controlling authority, department or project management unit acquires several prerogatives. Awarding sub-contracts of enormous sums, laying down procurement lines of articles of all kinds, awarding petty construction contracts, employing staff, technocrats and labourers, choosing locations and sub locations to benefit (or neglect) any particular community or their heads are some of the direct measures of controls that evolve from a mega development scheme. In the absence of effective monitoring mechanisms, the wrongdoings of the project management remain unnoticed causing harm to the affected people without any redress. Recently, while evictions were taking place along the corridor of Lyari Expressway, it was found that the staff of the management extorted sizable sums of money from such house owners whose property was falling at the borderline of the stipulated corridors. Helpless house owners thought it convenient to save their abodes by paying the hefty bribes though less than the value of their residences!

As a routine practice jointly adopted by the elected and self imposed regimes, high visibly mega projects are considered as the icons of efficient performance. Ignoring matters such as their immediate usefulness or long-term sustainability, such physical structures that can be seen or prominently noticed by every one are given top priority. In the urban context, high-grade motorways, transit corridors, bridges, pylons etc. constitute images of development. In the sub-urban and rural sectors, power plants, waterways, canal ways and highways are image boosting entities. Usually infrastructural components which are largely concealed in the earth surface are not regarded as the right example. This also applies to projects of medium and small scale. For instance, this country has abundance of left out school buildings which were constructed as per normal prescription but never utilised due to lack of feasibility. For simple villagers they, however, serve as a bad example of development.

International financial institutions (IFIs) have always supported the supply side approaches in economic policy. Mega projects that have large physical development component, spread out financial outlay, diversified avenues of technical assistance are instantly short listed for support and assistance. In other respects, the IFIs simply lure the bureaucrats and decision makers to enter into new deals for project financing.

Few weeks ago, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured the minister of Water and Power to extend support to projects/sub-projects to the sector to the tune of US$ 800 million. The minister has been reported to have attempted to convince ADB in financing Diamir Bhasha Dam. This step has been taken in complete disregard of the poor performance that many of the ADB funded projects have shown. Even ADB's internal audit groups have accepted this short coming. Sindh is still grappling with the outcomes of infamous Right Bank Out Fall Drain (RBOD) and Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD). Funded partly by the World Bank, they have turned out to be near fiascos even for the Bank's own policy makers. It may be noted that due to rising criticism on the lack of transparency and ingress of corruption, this matter has become a front line issue and merits investigation even from the World Bank and other concerned agencies. Recent researches have revealed that many myths which are taken as universal truths do not correspond to realities when analysed in a scientific manner. Findings by a research done by Daniel Kauffnian et.al of the WB raise fingers to some important conclusions.

It is believed that since corruption and lack of transparency cannot be measured, one must learn to live with them as an unalienable vice. Realistic references show that by scientific gathering of stakeholder feedback, examining tracks of budget disciplines and careful audit procedures, transparency measures can be put into effect. Hardcore evidences from our developmental examples simply confirm that by violating the standard institutional norms, the decision makers are abetting corruption and mal practice. Also the recent scandal involving the World Bank chief in a corruption case shows that corruption can occur at any level and any stage. Thus it must sound a danger bell for our sacred cows who think themselves above every law. The myth that white collar corruption is too difficult to detect is also invalid. Many examples have shown that by careful collection and analysis of subjective data, proofs can be gathered around to build up cases for prosecution.

If the regime is genuinely sincere and wishes to prove its stated position of being fair and upright in policy and execution of developmental works, few pre-requisites are vital to be followed. No project should be finalised without the available institutional procedures. A data base of prospective investors should be prepared who are keen to invest in the country. This shall help eliminate the dubious capitalists and black money peddlars from the scene. The decisions must be finalised after public consultations and hearings. And the standard procedures for technical, financial and environmental feasibilities must be transparently finalised. Gone are the days when economic and financial mal practices could be swept under the non-official dossiers!

 

Political philosophy
The second part of the genesis of Talibanisation...

  By Raza Rahman Khan Qazi

Dr. Fazal Rahim Marwat, who is a Assistant Professor at Pakistan Study Centre, University of Peshawar, and has written two books 'Talibanization of Pakistan' and 'Mujhajir to Mujahid' told TNS he did not think there was some special political philosophy both of Taliban Islamic Movement in Afghanistan or Pakistani Taliban.

In support of his argument he said that Taliban emerged out of chaos, anarchy and civil war. While most of the people believe that Taliban were the brainchild of Pakistan intelligence agencies or children of Maj. General Naseerullah Babar, he opined.

He explained that conditions in Afghanistan were exploited by different forces. "If you remember that when Taliban emerged, the first few statements from them were that they were against Topakian (armed men), Warlords and supported peace and that they had no aspirations for power." Until the very last days of their government, even after establishing their writ in entire Afghanistan, they were not clear what they wanted to do. "From a layman to a so-called intellectual, all of Taliban say they want Shariah. But nobody would tell you what type of system they referred to as Shariah."

In case of Taliban what observers make out of their brand of Shariah is a conservative, rural type of a system labelled as 'Islamic' system. "In this commonly perceived system there is no concept of civil liberties, of human freedom not only for women but also for men. In fact, the perception of the state was and still is the enforcement of some selective punishments like cutting of hand and fingers. When it comes to the socio-economic or political agenda, they never had any plan," Marwat went on to explain.

Actually in most parts of the world, people cannot and do not differentiate between Islamic state and Muslim societies. "Trends like Talibanisation are the result of the policies of US, Pakistan and many Arab countries policies in this part of the world. Because when you groom students of madrasas and indoctrinate them with war-mongering, naturally they would turn out to be militants. Especially the structures that Pakistan set up for refugees were such that ultimately their children turned into Taliban. They did not have any other option but to take up the gun."

About the genesis of realisation among extremists and Taliban groups that they can rule, Dr Fazal Rahim said: "Firstly, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's and then Zia's policies opened the gates for Taliban as the latter recognized the sanad as equivalent to the liberal education degrees and other concessions dragged the Taliban into the mainstream."

Another ideal for extremists and Taliban turning into clerics, was the Iranian Revolution as after many centuries a realisation spread that mullah can rule, Dr. Marwat said.

He is very right in his assessment of the realisation among the clerics that they are after all qualified to rule and the Taliban regime ultimately set a precedent for them. Moreover, their followers also felt that if they stood firmly behind their leaders they had a chance to reach the power corridors. This is the reason why Muttahida Majlise Amal (MMA) was formed and it also got a good number of seats in the 2002 elections to form the governments in NWFP and Balochistan.

Throwing light on Pakistani decision makers' benevolence towards religious extremists and Taliban, Dr Fazal Rahim cited the example of Tehrike Nifaze Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM). "You know TNSM emerged slightly before the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then how this TNSM spread and how the then chief minister of NWFP, Aftab Sherpao (now interior minister) entered into an agreement with TNSM to establish Qazi courts in place of regular courts is history. The way TNSM agitated and the way government gave in to its demands of Qazi courts in Malakand was very strange. And when the US attacked Afghanistan TNSM head Sufi Muhammad led thousands of men to Afghanistan to fight against the US but Pakistan government never stopped them," Dr Fazal Rahim narrated.

Moreover, the most important aspect of the contemporary clerical extremism and Talibanisation is the intention of absolutism or autocracy by the heads of radical groups. This could be the only political philosophy behind all the extremist outfits in various parts of Pakistan. For instance, Sufi Mohammad, who founded TNSM that has had its sphere of influence in Swat and Dir districts of NWFP and rippling towards Bajaur Agency, always acted like an autocrat before he was jailed after return from Afghanistan. Now his son-in-law reactivated TNSM in recent years through his religious rhetoric on his FM waves, which is more an effort to save the legacy and the benefits which it carry.

Because Dir and Swat were two former princely sates of Indian Union and merged into Pakistan decades after partition in 1947. In these princely states the people were more used to personal rule. It appears it has been on the mind of Sufi -- and later Fazlullah -- that once having control over the hearts and minds of gullible people of these areas, the next step would be to have a virtual clerical state where he would rule as a dictator. The public support could be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate with the country's leadership to recognise his 'right' of governance over the said areas or otherwise he has other options. This very much happened and is still happening in Malakand area.

The yearning for personal power by Taliban in their respective areas is also very evident in the actions of Mangal Bagh Afridi in the Khyber Agency. According to insiders his movement is half-religious and half-reactionary because he has been able to make thousands of Afridi tribesmen followers by vowing to put an end to the corruption of Political Agent as well as tribal maliks, who the people thought of as elements responsible for their miseries.

Then the aspiration for personal power among different Taliban groups in Waziristan is much obvious. Because there are a large number of groups having allegiance to a single leader prevailed. For instance, Baitullah Mehsud, Haji Nazeer, Haji Sharif etc in South Waziristan. Then the groups of Maulana Noor Mohammad, Sadiq Noor etc in North Waziristan.

The lust for personal aggrandizement and power is also very much evident in the acts of Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa episode. These brothers after receiving the illegally constructed masjid and madrasa complex from their father now wanted to consolidate and expand it by declaring 'Shariah' within the premises and vowing to impose upon it on the entire Islamabad.

Taliban groups -- devoid of any strong family or feudal background -- found the religious slogan the most handy to attain power. It is important to note that without religious slogans the clerics could not have made a place in the traditionally tribal and somewhat egalitarian Pakhtun society, whose members still cherish ethno nationalist values if not practice it.

This is also the underlying reason why Taliban could not emerge or make inroads in the largely not profoundly religious but feudal societies of the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Because there the strong feudal like Chaudhries, Waderas, Wajas and Nawabs have still ceded little power to create a vacuum to be filed by religious outfits.

In view of the finding that Taliban do not have a political philosophy or programme the phenomenon is turning out to be a dangerous cataclysm in the region. About the future of Talibanisation and its fallout Dr. Sarfaraz said: "Yes they have no all-encompassing policy for the state. The political face of the activities of Taliban could be the parties that form MMA because they justify their actions by terming them as 'reaction' to this and that. One thing has been noted that whenever Taliban groups acted countrywide then Pakhtoon links weaken and other influences overtake them. JI is one such outfit with no Pakhtoon influence -- rather it is Punjab and Karachi based. If Pakistani Taliban expand, in fact, they have already expanded, this is a sure recipe for disaster -- even virtual liquidation of the state like in Afghanistan in the past is a possibility."

(The writer is a journalist/political analyst and researcher: [email protected])


essay
The power of the media

It has been said that the electronic media has played a revolutionary role in the ongoing lawyer-led movement against dictatorship. There can be little debate over the centrality of the media to the whole Chief Justice affair; while the protagonists of the movement laud the role of private TV channels, General Pervez Musharraf reproaches them for being 'irresponsible' and inciting passions against the sitting government. One way or the other, there is a definitively new player on the political scene in Pakistan, and its importance must not be understated.

In the first instance, the general public now has access to alternative sources of information to PTV. This necessarily has significant implications given the fact that PTV has almost since its creation been the state's official propaganda machine. Indeed, if one were to conduct a survey amongst those households that now have access to private TV channels, the chances are that the vast majority now hardly watch PTV at all. Having said that, it is worth considering for a moment just how similar the news bulletin on the prototypical private TV channel is to PTV's Khabarnama. Almost inevitably the first couple of news items will be about the inauguration of the government's latest public works initiative, replete with the paraphrased speech that General Musharraf or Shaukat Aziz delivered on the occasion.

People will argue that this may be true for the most part, but that in recent times, the countrywide protest movement against the Musharraf regime has taken centrestage and that this is a departure from the PTV ideal-type. This is indeed true. The live coverage offered by channels such as Aaj of the tear-gassing of protestors and ransacking of the Geo building, the CJ's historic 26-hour journey from Islamabad to Lahore and the shameful violence in Karachi on May 12 has been truly commendable. But as increasingly prominent TV anchors have themselves acknowledged recently, live pictures must be responsibly broadcast, not in the way that General Musharraf would like, but so as to promote a healthy rather than a destructive political culture.

To put this another way, Pakistanis are intensely political people, and, in recent times have spent much time glued to their TV sets watching the political drama unfold. Indeed, even before the current stand-off exploded onto the TV screen, private TV channels had perfected the art of the talk show, beaming images of generals, politicians and intellectuals waxing lyrical on everything under the sun. Thus the political fetish of ordinary Pakistanis was already being fulfilled on a nightly basis. As such, the lawyer-led movement emerged in front of the TV-watching public's very eyes.

The question that begs to be asked of course, is how this very TV-watching public has responded to the 'live on TV' movement. Simply, they have responded by watching more TV. The majority of people in this country are thrilled that there is finally a political challenge to an unpopular military regime about to complete 8 years in power. The outburst of emotions that one sees on TV speaks to the repressed feelings of resentment that sit deep in most TV-watchers hearts. But then the anti-government banter on nightly talk shows also resonated deeply with the vast majority of viewers. The ganging up of intellectuals and politicians on a Wasi Zafar, Muhammad Ali Durrani or Tariq Azeem has an almost cathartic quality to it, and permits the ordinary Pakistani to vent some of his/her pent-up frustration. Typically however, once the show is over, the TV is turned off and one returns to business as usual.

One does not wish to dismiss the possibility that many who have followed recent events on TV may have actually been mobilised into some kind of political action. But the chances are that this is true in only a minority of cases. Besides, it is crucial to recognise that the media itself cannot foment political, and more importantly, social change. In a best-case scenario it can act as a catalyst. And in the worst-case scenario, in a society in which the existing political culture is far from progressive, it may even have a negative role in the long-run.

Take for example the manner in which corporate media has influenced public opinion and political discourse in the United States. The cable TV phenomenon in Pakistan is starting to mimic, albeit to a much lesser degree, the opinion-making behemoth that is the American corporate media. Americans have been watching wars of occupation (the media typically refers to them in far more triumphant terms) on live TV since the first Gulf War of 1991, and the influence that the corporate media has on the hearts and minds of middle America is now widely acknowledged. In Pakistan private TV is a relatively new phenomenon, but its impact within a very short period of time has been quite remarkable in the sense that it clearly has proven that it has the power to mould public opinion. Unfortunately, this moulding is passive and does not encourage wider politicisation. The blame for this cannot be placed squarely on the shoulders of TV channels; as mentioned above, the media cannot be charged with the responsibility of reviving a decadent political culture.

Ultimately, the corporate media is concerned primarily with making money. While its role can and should be lauded in any given situation, it cannot be heralded as the harbinger of revolution, and in fact it is crucial to resist the tendency to inertia that it typically inculcates. Just like the mobile phone which has become a mainstay of the modern world, cable TV proves that consumer-oriented technology is one of the major, if not the most important, influences on today's world. However, this is a world in which alienation and individualism reign. And while the present state of affairs actually shows TV playing a unifying role in a highly fractured polity, in the long-run this role is likely to be far more circumspect.

At the present time, if TV channels want to genuinely promote a democratic political culture, they can start by exposing some of the blatantly anti-democratic features of the state's nationalist project. They can do programmes on Pakistan's doctored history, the patronage-heavy politics that was deliberately imposed on society during the Zia dictatorship, and the regressive trends that prevail on university campuses because of systematic repression of student activism. There is no doubt that TV watchers would watch and benefit, and that such initiatives would, in the long-run, go some ways towards regenerating a progressive political culture in this country. But all this requires TV to delve meaningfully into the past and recover a progressive culture of journalism that is still conspicuous by its absence in today's Pakistan.

 

Death Bill

  By Aziz Omar

The American taxpayers must be twiddling their thumbs over the massive $122 billion dollar war bill that President George W. Bush has approved. Initially, the Republicans led by the 'leader of the free world' had asked the Congress for around $100 billion. Now, the Democrats, already having lost out on the demand for a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, recommended additional $17 billion. This is odd, keeping in view that the Democrats won the midterm elections in November last year on the very agenda of winding down American military operations in Iraq.

So if the Democrats control the all powerful Congress, then why exactly are these billions of dollars going to be offered to the US military. Amusingly, even though the Congress passed the original bill, Bush refused to sign it. Apparently, Democrats still do not have the required clout to prevent the president from vetoing. So to poke their fingers in the Iraq fiasco, the Democrats have sanctioned additional funds for domestic-and-military-related projects.

But this has come at a price of not pushing further for the applications of restrictions on the military. By agreeing upon this increase, according to Mr. Bush, "members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our service men and women in harm's way". Pure politics did have a decisive part to play in this development, as the Democrats did not want to distance themselves from the soldiers in the recently held Memorial Day services on May 28. This day, which is held on the last Monday of every May, has been designated to honour the men and women who have 'given their lives in serving their country'.

What the Democrats are really claiming as a victory now is what the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims as not giving a blank check to Bush. Furthermore, the approved bill carries a set of benchmarks or standards that have to be met by July in order for the release of the second tranche of funds. Meaning that the military commanders in Iraq will have to demonstrate that significant progress have been made towards political economic and security targets. Ironically, it has been this very lack of progress in Iraq that has been used as a pretext to request for the current chunk of funds. Even though Bush holds the top responsibility of the costly and horrific four-year long war, he still insisted on vetoing any bill that entailed a haphazard and piecemeal funding.

This has been the second time around in his presidency that the US president has exercised his vetoing muscle. The first veto had been dealt a blow to the bill supporting the increase in funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Bush's justification for the current veto was simply encapsulated in statements such as that "Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world". The Democrats proposed bill had called for a complete recall of troops by the end of March 2008 regardless of the outcome. According to Bush, signing it would have been tantamount to accepting defeat in the face of the elusive 'enemy'.

And what exactly is this enemy? Well, according to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, "The enemy is diffuse and sophisticated, and is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida." And how to overcome these wayward enemy forces crawling out from the woodwork? By simply exploiting these very differences within the militant factions. So what has stood in the way for so long that these 'differences' have not been exploited, even with an integrated strategy that incorporates local and foreign security forces. Well, for one, a new course of action for the war reveals that military intelligence is still tangled up in identifying the various groups of people that the American forces are countering.

However, the most important twist in the upcoming war strategy is that conventional methods of capturing and killing insurgents have worsened the situation. And so the new idea is to use military force sparingly and inviting the enemy to the negotiating table and discussing power-sharing. Hell, it's about time that this dawned upon the likes of General David Petraeus, the commander of the US forces in Iraq.

More politics was to follow, as it turned out that the Democrats had compromised their pullout plan and had instead accorded with the White House on standards for bilateral free trade. This agreement basically means that countries which seek direct trade with the US will have to satisfy certain minimum conditions on labour and environmental issues. Although this deal will eventually force countries to start cleaning up all the muck regarding labor rights and industrial pollution, how exactly can this be a fair trade-off for letting the mindless gore (no pun intended) continue in Iraq? According to a recent poll conducted by CBS/New York Times, nearly 76 per cent of Americans are dissatisfied over the war. It is indeed surprising that even with the American public overwhelmingly showing disfavor for the continuation of fighting on Iraqi soil, such an amount is going to be taken out from the country's coffers. Intriguingly, this funding bill seems to be coming largely from cutbacks in federal healthcare programs intended for the very people President Bush has vowed to protect.

With this bill, it is hoped that the American citizenry will realise that their lives hold a greater value than those of Thanksgiving turkeys. Hopefully, they will band together to pull the reigns on this chariot of war, gone berserk

 

The economy of energy

Fueling the Future:
Meeting Pakistan's Energy Needs in the 21st century
Edited by: Robert M. Hathaway, Bhumika Muchhala, Michael Kugelman
Published by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Pages: 203

In their eagerness to lambast the US, detractors often overlook the virtues it contributes to the world. America houses an unmatched concentration of intellect and grants it free rein to flex its brain power. A portion of this grey matter is channelled towards analysing the problems of the world at large, both for the academic value of such endeavours and on account of the sincere belief that scholars operate without frontiers.

A recent product of this noble effort is a book titled 'Fueling the Future'. The book addresses the concerns of Pakistan's energy sector in this century. It has been published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a prestigious think tank that has devoted itself to policy issues. The book is a compilation of academic papers by a galaxy of authorities including Pakistan Energy Advisor Mukhtar Ahmed, economist Shahid Javed Burki, and young US based academician Saleem H Ali. All of the luminaries contributing to the book have resumes burnished by work for bodies like the World Bank and IMF. While the book is not planned for a commercial launch in Pakistan, a limited number of complimentary copies can be obtained by writing to [email protected]

Like any sound piece of social science, this work is propped up by a wealth of eye-opening statistics. Only 19.9 per cent of the oil we consume in this country is indigenous. Extrapolating the current supply and demand situation portends an energy shortfall of 64 per cent by 2030. Our waters boast a hydel capacity of 42,000 MW out of which only 6,500 MW is being realised. We devote 30 per cent or $3 billion of our import bill to energy-related imports. Only 59 per cent of our nation has access to our national grid. In rural areas that figure droops down to an embarrassing 37 per cent.

But the book is not a mere catalogue of ominous statistics. It attempts to chronicle the history of our energy sector in a bid to identify the errant planning that has translated into the dismal situation today. It sifts through contemporary legislation and adopts a critical stance towards government policies that are impeding our progress. It draws attention to the vast, untapped potential of renewable energy in our country. Moreover, it shares success stories from the South Asian region to assure us that with meticulous planning we can blow away the dark clouds on our energy horizon.

Academics are sometimes criticised for failing to converge to agreement, thus leaving laymen in the lurch over who to believe. But, while all the chapters of this book might have been penned independently, several recurrent themes can be identified. There is ample criticism of our government's approach of attempting to solve the energy crisis by investing in gargantuan dams and plants when the aggregation of smaller enterprises may be wiser. Less ambitious ventures are easier and faster to develop, provide a more efficient model of distribution and are less detrimental to our environment.

There is a consensus that the energy economy is delicately intertwined with the political economy. Privatisation is required to develop a more robust industry and lure in foreign investment. It is also pointed out that Pakistan's energy grid and gas pipelines currently do not traverse any border and better relationships with our neighbours which could lead to more cooperation in this domain. Investment in our energy sector injected by Uncle Sam has been drying up as a result of his own domestic energy concerns amidst bloated world oil prices. But Pakistan can still extract aid from the United States by placing a premium on its internal security and pledging to use the investment judiciously.

It is clear that oil will hold decreasing significance in the future and we are already extracting maximal benefits from our vast reserves of natural gas. The book identifies hydel power, coal and nuclear power as characters that will play increasingly critical roles in our energy portfolio. But the writers also concede that hydel power raises political opposition and causes environmental degradation. We have significant quantities of coal but it is not of optimal quality. And Western resistance to emerging nuclear deployments is another impediment. There are suggestions for how to sidestep these obstacles such as using the excess moisture in our coal to provide the steam in power plants. But such thoughts are presently only theories and implementation is far away.

The world laments that Balochistan, physically our most resourceful province, benefits the least from its indigenous wealth. The resulting resentment plagues our efforts to utilise its mineral wealth. It is also pointed out how the government energy plans tend to neglect the poorest classes who mostly subsist off the energy from waste products. Improved quality and quantity of energy would be the first step in raising their standard of living.

Generating 10 per cent of our requirements through alternative forms of energy by 2015 is one of the stated goals. This book gives us ample suggestions on how to achieve precisely that. A significant chunk of our land is bathed in sunlight for 300 days a year; we need to coax those beams of light into driving our industry. Harnessing the strong breezes cavorting on our beaches and crushing more than juice out of sugarcane stalks are other suggestions to make us more prominent players in the alternative energy industry. The book ends on a plea for us to not trample our environment in our efforts to pump every last ounce of energy out of it.

There are multiple references to government bodies that have active agendas to improve our energy situation but have limited tangible results at this point. We must remember that academics, like journalists, are just messengers trying to communicate truth and wisdom to the masses. It is up to the movers and shakers of our world to carry the baton to the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

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