July 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Pakistan

Let me start by stating the obvious. Miss Hillary Clinton is much better versed in matters of Pakistani national importance, than our rulers, media anchors, persons, or the general populace. It is no doubt a fact that India and Pakistan will move from Kashmir gradually towards a water dispute, but that dispute can be delayed for a considerable time if we just pay attention to Miss Clinton’s assessment. I have ample reason to believe what Miss Clinton has said, to be true because I have spent the last four months studying and discussing the water, power and energy crisis of Pakistan in university. Before raising and pointing the finger at India or anyone, it should be noted that we are no white horses either. According to a study by Transparency International (which is not given much weight probably because we always come bottom in its assessments), WASA and the Irrigation department are the most corrupt departments in Pakistan followed by the FBR which is also the most incompetent. Once again the veracity of these claims is without doubt because my Pak Econ teacher was involved in this whole assessment system of TI and she gave a firsthand account about how the revenue collectors in FBR do not even have the basic know how about revenue collection, auditing, or entries into the books.

Now all of this transgresses the main core issue. Pakistani nation, just like has been proven, are hell-bent of beating about the bush by blaming the US for siding with India, for not giving us dollars, for not helping the poor people. The fact of the matter is we need to help ourselves before we even think about presenting our case to the world. Is not degrading that every time a foreign dignitary visits Pakistan, we end up begging them to “help us” by giving us funds and aid and what not? The question that needs to be answered is what we have done for ourselves. Take the water issue with India for example. Pakistan boasts of the largest, most sophisticated canal distribution network in the world. Although I think now it has been overtaken by the Egyptian water irrigation system, but that is beside the point. In our 63 years since independence, we have made massive claims and touted ourselves as primarily an agrarian economy. But look at our history; it is replete with instances right from 1950 to 2010 where our leaders have completely sidelined the agriculture sector and promoted the vast industrialization of the economy. Maybe they thought that agriculture will always be there to rely on, but that has turned out to be a utopian dream now. Our water irrigation system is in complete disarray. In 63 years the least we could’ve done was to line our canals to minimize water losses. We did not introduce new technology to streamline the water distribution system. Our national caliber was so disintegrated that it took 43 years after independence for the provinces to reach an accord on water distribution. Right now, Pakistan has more than ample water storage capacity. There isn’t even need to build huge new reservoirs; simple check dams costing a fraction of the mega dam projects created at strategic points on the river system can curtail the water deficiency in only a few days. Talk about water crisis.

Coming to Indo-US nuclear deal, Miss Clinton refused outright to provide a nuclear deal to Pakistan. And the fact of the matter is that we need to realize that we’re not the strong, powerful nation that India is. Our democratic institutions are still in their infancy and are still dependent on the army rather than the general population. So forgive me for stating the obvious, but we just aren’t that attractive to the Americans as are the Indians. This is the simple truth of the matter. I keep stressing this point and I never tire, but it is imperative that we become self sufficient without resorting to needless loans. Our energy crisis can be ended within one year provided the government is sensible enough to provide tenders to those wishing to build coal power plants in this country. We have the 5th largest coal reserves in the world. A true picture can be gauged from the fact that if only 2% of our coal reserves are used, we can produce 20,000MW of energy, non-stop, for 40 straight years. Talk about the energy crisis. And before you yell GREEN! (I’m no fan of the green movement), let me remind you that 53% of the US energy comes from coal fired power plants. It is also imperative to spend money on education because that is the ONLY way to develop. There is no other. You can build power plants and dams and skyscrapers but unless you’re educated, you’re useless.

Miss Clinton did not make any new promises. But she stresses the point again and again that we need to resolve our issues internally. The other option is inviting the US to solve them, but then that is just so unacceptable. Also when I talk about resolving the internal issues ourselves, I am told that our issues are not ours, but are a devious attempt by the Americans to destabilize us and take over us. By the tenor of Miss Clinton’s visit to Pakistan, I dare say there will be no better thing in the world for the US to keep away from Pakistan as much as they want. The talk about the Pak-Afghan Trade Transit has also generated a lot of controversy but the US’ stance that it is Pakistan’s own decision to make is appreciated. But once again the decision to disallow the Indians to use our trade routes for trade with Afghanistan was made in the GHQ, not the PM Secretariat and that is appalling.

These are the occurrences in Pakistan currently. Let’s hope common sense and good judgment prevail to help us out of this mess we are in.