Dams are Vital, but at what cost?
03 January, 2006
By Ahmer Muzammil
The Casanova of Pakistani politics, one Mr. Mustafa Khar (former Governor of Punjab) has recently said that, Kalabagh if erected by force (there is really no other way) and without consensus will result in the demise of Pakistan`s federation. I truly doubt that politicians who oppose this dam give a damn about how crucial it is for Pakistan (read Punjab) in general. I don`t even think they oppose it because they truly believe its bad for the people of their own constituency, I say that because most politicians who are opposing it are not smart enough to understand the entire dynamics of this project. Kalabagh at this point is a clash of egos. Two elephants fighting if you will, and when two elephants fight usually the grass is what gets ruined, which is we the populous of this unfortunate country. It`s ironic that the debate of this Kalabagh issue has been rekindled around the same time of the anniversary of Suqoot-e-Dhaka (inception of Bangladesh).
Our beloved Generalissimo is adamant that he will go ahead with the project with all his military might if necessary. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pervaiz Musharaf is a patriotic Pakistani. I also believe that he sincerely wants to do well for Pakistan, I don`t even think that he is corrupt in financial sense either. The problem that I see is the fact that he seems to think he has infinite wisdom and therefore everyone should just take his word for it IN EVERYTHING. This stubbornness and self-righteousness is enormously detrimental to democracy at large and is ruining the institutions since all the power is confided in one person. It`s because of this un-supervised extreme power that he sometimes exudes the jewels like the one he boasted regarding bombing balochistan in stone ages. Now he will take on not one, not two but all three provinces at once, Punjab on one side and the rest of the country on the other. What a pretty picture this is, isnít it? In addition to earth quakes,
corruption, mis-management of resources and now why not open this Pandora`s box? Sometimes I wonder that the lord above must really like us, because it`s a miracle that Pakistan is still floating about even though the powers to be have done everything in their power to loose it all.
No one in their sane state of mind can deny the obvious fact that we as a nation need to come up with ideas that will ensure the water supply for future generations. The best way known to mankind at this point in time to deliver that objective is Dams. So we all agree that Dams are necessary, essential, dire, however you want to stress it. We all get that! But the problem is that the establishment is hell-bent on this spot of the Kalabagh, which is the point of contention with the rest of the three provinces. As much as I have researched on this particular topic, let me be the first to accept the fact that I still don`t understand diddly about it. But from what I have read the province that will be adversely affected the most would be frontier, henceforth the discontent (Don`t mess with the pashtoons!). Sind is also weary of establishment, the most common perception amongst the sindhis is that establishment will do anything and everything that will benefit Punjab, never mind that it will be at the cost of other provinces. Whether that perception is right or wrong, depends on your own prejudice. But the fact remains that common-folk of the province of Punjab has no say in this decision nor they are the ones that will benefit financially, neither the majority populous of Punjab would ever insist on a project that would put a hardship on their brethren in frontier and Sind. It`s the establishment, landlords and their military counterparts that are gung-ho on building this Dam, because mostly of their personal gains. It`s quite amazing however how these hypocrites transform their personal agendas in to Patriotic rhetoric. Tax-evaders, Bank-defaulters, land-grabbers, tyrants, ruthless landlords ordering mass rape of poor women, everything is kosher as long as you are on the right side of the political-divide, if this is enlightened moderation, let me continue being a darkened fundamentalist.
One should take heart from the fact that the most intellectuals and politicians from Punjab realize the fact that this Kalabagh Dam can cause a serious rift in already deteriorating ties between Punjab and the smaller provinces, this can`t be good for any patriotic Pakistani. Peoples party, Muslim League (N), MMA, Imran khan`s tehreek-e-Insaaf, MQM (even though they are Musharaf`s Boys right now) etc., by and large almost all major political players are against this Dam by force. I think this realization is the stark difference between this situation and the one we faced in 1971, and it just might save us. In 1971 the entire west Pakistani psyche was of the opinion that our brothers and sisters in east Pakistan were traitors for merely asking for their due right. It was that stubbornness and empty patriotic drum beating that was the final nail in the coffin then.
The time and energy that we have wasted on Kalabagh (to no avail mind you), could have easily been materialized towards building a Dam on Bhasha or Skardu, where feasibilities have been completed and more importantly all concerned are at serenity. Why it hasnít happened, well for the same reasons (among others) that Mr. president didn`t take off his uniform after promising the nation on National Television, for the same reason he trashed his own ideology of accountability by sleeping with the same bank-defaulters and robbers that he presumably came in power to eradicate. The reason is always `NATION`S BEST INTEREST`! Unfortunately nation at large never really have a say in what that interest should be. Welcome to the insanity that is Pakistan.