INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

October 28, 2014

GOANS AND PARSIS KARACHI’S FORGOTTEN COMMUNITIES

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:48 am

Goans

Injudicious comments by Kursheed Ali Shah, the PPP leader followed by Bilawal’s remarks about MQM have led to controversies. In quest to score political brownies, both parties tended to amplify their contribution to Karachi. Both forget that their contribution to Uroos ul Bilaad, the ‘bride of cities and ‘city of lights’ is meagre.

MQM is a national political party that grew out of the deprivations and injustices meted to segments of Pakistanis. They were labeled with social taboos and unchivalrous temperament. MQM reacted the way any deprived segment of an urban society would; gradually expanded and secured a firm hold in Sind’s urban areas.

But within this realpolitik, both parties forget that the rapid development and strength of Karachi was built on diversity, in which multi-cultural and multi religious groups complemented each other to forge a melting pot. The fact that the city is now torn by uncertainty and strife owes much to their divisive agendas. Karachi a city of opportunity had something for everyone; ‘Karachi that was’ is not the ‘Karachi that is’.

No one can claim exclusivity for building modern Karachi, least the modern masters. There was no Pakistan or modern Sindh when the first batch of Baloch and Mekrani fishermen set camp on the shores to call it Mai Kolachi. With local integration it was renamed Kalochi Jo Goth. In mid-18th century the Dutch named it Kurrachee in a dispatch. With Bombay not yet developed, it became the only port of entry to India. The city became a business hub and East India Company was quick to move in.

In the 19th and 20th century entrepreneurs and adventurers, amongst them Guajaratis, Parsis, Goan Christians, Anglo Indians, Jews, Arabs, Lebanese, Marathis, Arabs, Chinese and Asians of Uganda began debouched for its promise. What remains of the Jews is a graveyard in dilapidated condition. These adventurers worked tirelessly as workers, businessmen, developers, administrators, academicians, doctors, musicians, soldiers and sportsmen to give Karachi its diverse culture. In doing so, they also shaped Pakistan by evolving a management and administrative infrastructure that despite 50 years of mismanagement still delivers. A glance at the list of names on Municipal Corporation, Karachi Divisional Council, and Mayors indicates the strength of diversity.  Few know that the modern city of Seoul South Korea is modeled on Karachi. As Karachi ceded to forces of intolerance the peaceful and serene city became insecure. The architects fled.

It was after colonialisation of Karachi that modern development work began. Napier eyed Karachi for its port and agriculture produce of the Indus Basin. Railway lines and roads were constructed to link Karachi up country while commerce and industry grew. The major workforce comprised Goans.

Two communities that stand out for giving Karachi the face it has are Parsi businessmen cum philanthropists and the Goan Christians. Parsis made a big contribution with their handsome donations, investments and social centers. Goans followed with their skilled manpower and organizational ability. As the city fell victim to lawlessness, the Parsis are mostly gone leaving behind deserted infra structures vulnerable to property mafias.  The majority of Goans and Anglo Pakistan’s have also migrated. Those who remain cling together in closely knit communities and love being Pakistanis in a city their elders tell owes them their sweat and blood. They are active members of expatriate Pakistani communities’ world over. Living abroad, they feast with Sindi Baryani, tikkas and kebabs. A Goan settled in Margarita, Venezuela has named his house Pakistan.

In the 1947 partition turmoil, it was the Goans and Parsis that held the city together. The Hindus left and migrants poured in. The majority of health care, educational and civic facilities were run by these two communities. According to Menin Rodriguez, a Goan historian, “Goans in particular were in the limelight of everything, from municipality to customs, judiciary to policing, sports, music and stage plays to ballroom dancing, and of course cuisine. Goan cooks were favorites at British and Parsi homes, and at other foreign missions. Karachi, the capital of Pakistan, was a beautiful model-city of a fledgling country”.

Frank D’Souza, a member of the Railway Board of India set up Pakistan Western Railways on request of Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Cincinnatus D’Abreo a remarkable Goan ‘founder of modern Sindh’ established the city’s first township, called ‘Cincinnatus Town’ (now Garden East). Post partition, Karachi’s first elected Mayor was Manuel Misquita. As Terrance D’Souza recalled, he accompanied his Father and Mr. Misquita to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined them in thanksgiving prayers for Pakistan.

Though Mr Ahmad G. Chagla is credited for the composition of Pakistan’s National Anthem written by Hafeez Jullandari, few know that the actual scores and compositions were done by Chagla’s close Goan friend Tollentine Fonseca. Tollentine was a bandmaster in Pakistan Navy who wrote the scores of each instrument in a blend of Waltz and eastern music.  The Officers March, Dewan-e-Khas and Barcelona Waltz played by the brass bands of Pakistan’s armed forces are also his compositions.

In sports, O.B. Nazareth wrote the first constitution of the Hockey Federation of Pakistan. Milton D’Mello represented Pakistan in 1948 London Olympics as did the brilliant forward Jack Britto at Helsinki Olympics of 1952. Mathais Wallis, Antao D’Souza and Duncan Sharpe played test cricket for Pakistan. Michael Rodrigues, a General/Vascular & Cancer Surgeon was a National Boys Singles Table Tennis Champion for three years. Mennen Soares played for Pakistan in the All-England Thomas Cup World Championships in l 1950s. John Permal was Pakistan’s champion sprinter from 1964 to 1974. Raymond Brinksworth dominated the hurdles. Rose brothers Clyde, Nigel, Kevin and Brian were national boxing champions in their weights and represented Pakistan.

Goans have distinguished themselves in services. Christian fighter pilots form the single largest bulk of gallantry awards and martyrdom in PAF. Pinto Hall at Military Apprentice School at Barian Murree stands out as commemoration of a great Goan soldier. It was Colonel William Waterfield, the legendary adjutant of PMA whose guns silenced the Indians at Lahore in 1971. Goan officers remained the backbone of Pakistan Navy for a long time. Names like Gardner, Niblet, Snell and D’Souza are legendary in Pakistan’s Police Service. In judiciary, Charles and William Lobo, Pinto and Justice Cornelius are familiar names.

As Goan Pakistanis continue to serve the country in obscurity, who can forget the Late Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, who was awarded the Presidential Pride of Performance for services in the field of education.

I was brought up and educated in missionary schools with hostel facilities. My peers and teachers were mostly Anglo Pakistan’s and Goans. Hence there are many aspects of my life and outlook that actually reflect these communities.

Wing Commander Mervyn Middlecoat Shaheed (SJ and Bar) had not only been our neighbor but also a senior at school and inspired many to join the armed forces. Air Vice Marshal Eric G Hall SJ was also from St. Anthony’s and his mother was our messing in charge in the boarding. Table manners, turnout and social behavior is something we learnt from her. Maj Retired Jack Fardy (Paw) taught us Chemistry. Much later when I got commissioned to 13 Baloch Regiment (old 6/8 Punjab), I saw his name on the visitor’s Book. Captain Retired Evans taught us English Literature and Language. I owe all my writing skills to him.  He lived in my neighborhood and while training to join Pakistan Military Academy, I would often join him in early morning four mile runs. He would say, ‘early bird gets the worm’. Property mafia slit him to death in Lahore Cantt. Mr. Duesmont taught us physics. I remember, he once got a stroke in class and I performed the first aid till the ambulance came. In those days Red Cross used to train students in First Aid.

Our Boxing coach Mr. Rose was out of this world. His four sons became National boxing champions. Clyde Rose was my class fellow and hostel mate. Seldom a high school produced four national champions. George Permal and Raymond Brinksworth inspired me into athletics. I and Peter Pearl became Lahore’s best long distance runners. Born with a cardio deformity, I exerted much below my abilities at Pakistan Military Academy, but once commissioned as officer, sky was the limit. I became a successful High Altitude Mountaineer and led my company and courses in 2 Mile, four Mile and 12 mile runs.

And then were those teen age crushes during weekend balls and fancy fairs. It taught us to treat girls as ladies and respect them. I owe all my communication skills to this amazing community.

Goans and Anglos were excellent street fighters that gave the name to St. Anthony’s for producing excellent soldiers and fighters. Our closest competitors Aithison College and Cathedral School dreaded us. Bonsons, O’Brians, Fernandez’, Gomes, Rodrigiez, D’Silvas, D’Souzas, Guerras, Niblets, Snells. Gardners, Tiernys, Lums and Razarios all inspired me. They were all my stock.

It is a pity; we lost these founders of Pakistan to intolerance. Not only Karachi, but also the country needs to recognize the services of this great community.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://nation.com.pk/columns/25-Oct-2014/karachi-s-forgotten-communities#disqus_thread

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October 25, 2014

KASHMIR: BLOOD LINES TO WALLS

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:51 am

modi-in-kashmir

This article must be read as follow up of Kashmir, Lines Drawn with Blood (http://nation.com.pk/columns/06-Feb-2011/The-lines-drawn-with-blood).

Narendra Modi has deliberately escalated the Line of Control and Working Boundary in Kashmir. India, an imperial state by nature has extended this heat to China by building a road along the Tibetan Border. The roots of this forward policy lie in Hindutva and religious edits describing a glorious past in antiquity. In order to reclaim this, what was done in recent past has to be undone. Invaders from North are a historical experience and must be blocked. In the Kautylian Mandala, Bharat must exist as a hegemon. The notion is akin to Zionism and Daish.

In the past 67 years Indian neighbours have been at the receiving end of this creeping policy camouflaged by pacifist notions of Secularism, Fabian Socialism, Panchsheel, Non Alignment and Shinning India. These countries include China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Goa, Hyderabad and Jundagarh and Kashmir. The Strong Indian economic growth makes it convenient to exercise other instruments of coercion, placation and subjugation. Major international actors with eyes on Indian markets look the other way when India flexes its sinews. Political economy and not geo strategy dominate international politics.

Kashmir, the land from where the sacred waters originate was occupied with fictitious documents. Sardar Patel and VP Menon made illegal amendments in Section 6 of 1935 Act to write the Instrument of Accession carried by Manekshaw to the Kashmiri Raja. Enlightened Indians were left aghast. In the case of Madhav Rao, the Supreme Court of India found it strange that India inherited any aspects of the British paramountcy. The Indian Supreme Court in Premnath Kaul and the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, in Magher Singh, observed that with the lapse of the paramountcy, the princely state became an independent and sovereign. These two legal observations remain a barrier to Indian intentions.

But intentions to limit Pakistan were clear. The division of Punjab provided India a land route to Kashmir, controls of rivers and important head works in East Punjab. Bikaner, the State with biggest ammunition depots ceded to India because of head works. With the slogan of Hind Chini Bhai Bhai, Nehru-Patel traded off Tibet as quid pro quo for Kashmir?

Forward Policy is innate psyche of imperial India. East Pakistan had to seal its border to develop Chittagong. West Pakistan nearly went to war in the 50s when rivers were blocked. The Indus Basin Water Treaty is beyond riparian rights. The instrument was crafted by United Nations and World Bank to ensure a cooperative mechanism in a conflict prone zone. India’s moral ground on Tibet is an afterthought. In 1971 Pakistan was cut to size. Sir Creek, SiaChin and escalations on the Line of Control and Tibetan border accrue from motivations of Akhand Bharat and Bharat Versha. With the rise of the Hindu right and Modi, this confrontation appears to be assuming new levels. Changing the demography of Kashmir, buying off or placating Kashmiri leaders, Amarnath Yatra, plans of a road along the Chinese Border, a 135 feet high concrete barrier along the Line of Control and Pakistan are a continuation by other means. The conspicuous absence of a control mechanism and relief during the recent floods is seen by Kashmiris as warning shots by a trigger happy Modi. In quest of his celibate purity, he is obsessed by his strong beliefs.

The Indian plans to finally digest IHK revolve around the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Earlier, India put its stranglehold on IHK through illegal extension of Articles 356 and 357 that allow Indian writ in IHK and weakened Article 370. Abrogation will entail a possible sellout by the National Conference led by Omar Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party of Mufti Sayeed and others in the IHK State Assembly to garner a two thirds majority. The amendment will then be put before India’s Constituent Assembly for abrogation. But legal questions will still stand in the way. Will the second generation of National Conference and PDP become sellouts like their elders are a question mark? Both parties are isolated from the people following the recent manipulated flooding.

Therefore, as a prerequisite, India must quarantine IHK from Pakistan through an Indianised version of Barlev Line. A pliant and discredited Pakistan with weak armed forces and no nuclear capability is a pre requisite. The present government in Pakistan is facilitating with its warmth towards Modi. This includes MFN Status, easy transit to Afghanistan, bilateral trade and investments and putting Kashmir on the back burner. Simultaneously, the Government of Pakistan is keen to appease USA by accepting India as a lead players in the region, undermine the armed forces of Pakistan under the pretext of Civil Military relations and control high cost consumer monopolies that curtail sustainable development. The government is also prepared to sell off household silver and introduce high cost consumer services like electricity to control Pakistan’s domestic industry and export potential. Privatizations, Reko Dik, Saindak and Thar coal are all part of this Economic Hitman policy.

But international obligations also stand in India’s way. Much depends whether Pakistan will have the spine to invoke them. With no foreign minister and a part time defence minister, it is most likely that the government’s premier intention is to appease India. But in all likelihood, before this government reaches a point of departure, it will be curtains for them.

Bilateralism cannot exclude the will of the people of Kashmir. Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and aspirations of the people of Kashmir are hedged by at least 10 UN Security Council Resolutions numbers 38, 39, 47, 51, 91, 96, 98, 122,123 and 126. These also outlaw Indian legal position to absorb IHK as its territory. UNSC Resolutions 91 and 122 invalidate elections in IHK as substitute to plebiscite. They declare that acts such as J&K Constitution and by implication amendments in the Indian Constitution do not make for a final settlement of Kashmir.

24 January 1957 marks the point when India stopped pretending it was interested in the plebiscite and began a manoeuvre to block international arbitration on the Kashmir issue. Similar bad moves by Pakistan facilitated this.

As International dynamics tilt in India’s favour intransience has grown. But dynamics back home and inside IHK are rapidly changing. The movement for Naya Pakistan and a Naya Kashmir is rising like a phoenix and will defeat such designs. Sellout Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders will soon become the debris of history. A badly mauled and blood-shedding Modi will have to withdraw to his retreat in Gujarat.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://nation.com.pk/columns/18-Oct-2014/kashmir-blood-lines-to-walls

October 12, 2014

South Asia’s Nuclear Precipice

flashpoint

Since 1987, India has toyed with the idea of fighting a limited conventional conflict under a nuclear shadow. Evolving Indian Doctrines since the Brass Tacks to Cold Start have worked on this premise. Pakistan erred and showed the way in Kargil. Ex Indian Army Chief V.P Malik pointed to limited conflicts by confirming that “we were able to keep the Kargil War Limited primarily due to nuclear as well as conventional deterrence”. He went on to say, ““In the future there was greater likelihood of limited wars and they could take place without warning. It is axiomatic; therefore that we are better prepared and maintain a higher state of readiness than hither-to-fore. In the Indian context a limited war could range from the icy heights of Siachin, the world’s highest battlefield to Kargil and the kind of country where Indian and Pakistani troops have been regularly trading gunfire since the eighties.”

This forms the corner stone of Indian strategic thought on a conflict with Pakistan. Indian armed forces have ever since been structured to achieve these objectives. Even if Indians deny their ambitions, their convention and nuclear force structure, military exercises and strategic thinkers affirm to the contrary. With Narendra Modi and his fascist demeanour, it may not be out of character for India to embark on such an adventure.

Recent violations and escalations across the Line of Control and Working Boundary defy strategic logic. From the perspectives of the philosophy of war and conflict resolution, it is senseless. From Pakistan’s viewpoint, escalation is unwanted. It distracts the armed forces from its major purpose, ‘to destroy and dismantle terrorism in Pakistan’. At a time when Pakistan is engaged in a critical phase of War on Terror; while various non-state actors hit back at targets in mainland at will, the question that emerges is; why must Pakistan indulge in a reckless standoff with India it can ill afford? If Pakistan is not doing it, another question arises; whose interests are being served with the rising escalations? Not the least, Pakistan. This leaves a lingering question; who and why?

India thinks to the contrary. Armed to teeth with weapons and technology, a rejuvenated right, the Bharat Versha dream and leaders to can ride the crest of such desires, India sees an opportunity to tame a Pakistan torn by its internal strife. The roots, ebbs and flows of the ongoing violations can be traced back to December 2012. Though downplayed in Pakistan, the Indian politicians, commentators and media have escalated the rhetoric. War drums have reached a new crescendo with the advent of General Bikram Singh and Narendra Damodardas Modi. A new dimension of internally displaced Pakistanis has emerged.

Stability in Afghanistan for a peaceful transition to Ashraf Ghani-Abdullah Abdullah led government and withdrawal of US Forces is crucial to Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism. It is in Pakistan’s interest that all launching areas and sanctuaries in Afghanistan must be eliminated. This needs a strong political and diplomatic arm that works objectively with the Afghan Government and international forces. India has lost an ally in Hamid Karzai.  The international dynamics in the Middle East and rise of ISIS (Takfiri: The Arab sidewinder Nation 9 August 2014) and its likely ingress towards Pakistan warrant that the country must attain internal stability quickly. If not, it will leave gaping holes for exploitation. In strategic terms it translates to writ of the state along the Afghan Border and elimination of terrorist enclaves in the mainland. India eyes these instabilities.

Though the military operations in FATA have been swift and effective, the urge to handle militancy in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan is missing. Sporadic actions by terrorists are on rise and likely to peak in winters. The lack of civilian resolve continues to impose a criminal delay on the stability needed for pre-empting militant forays. One explanation that needs probing is the demi-ally status of certain terrorist out fits (Punjabi Taliban) with the ruling party and linkages of sub-nationalist outfits with a party from Balochistan that also enjoys very warm relations with the Afghan Intelligence. Very recently, a journalist from ARY was assassinated as reprisal for daring to expose these linkages. This situation is what the doctor orders for India.

There is also sufficient evidence that anti Pakistan groups are being supported by Indian Intelligence from Afghanistan.  Some international observers feel uncomfortable that Pakistani law enforcement agencies do not hound the morphing forms of Lashar e Tayyaba (Let, a banned outfit) seen as major supporter of freedom struggle in Kashmir.  India is vociferous in singling out this organisation. In the past, this organisation was accused of close linkages with Afghan Taliban. In Afghan parlance Punjabi Taliban means any organisation headed by Hafiz Saeed. Very recently, Pakistan under intense international pressure put Jamaat Ud Dawa, a welfare organisation headed by the cleric on the banned list. In a bizarre scenario of After Pakistan, these groups are the biggest threat to Indian and global objectives.

This is precisely why the line of control and working boundary figure in Indian calculus. India despite having fenced the entire line accuses Pakistan of infiltrating militants (LeT) into Indian Held Kashmir. Add the re-siting of posts, position for winters and sporadic violence and one has a live line of control vulnerable to escalations at slightest provocations. On the broader canvas, a larger scenario of Pakistan-India-Afghanistan emerges with keen international focus.

Hence the equation; while the Armed Forces of Pakistan seem to be in a rush for internal stability, there are actors that are bent otherwise.

As written earlier, Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani’s (the chief counter terrorism commander) talk at National Defence University brings clarity to the confusion and narratives. He stressed on the need to extend operations to the mainland. He hinted that political issues were impeding action against terror groups in Punjab and Balochistan. It seems that if internal stability is not the priority of the present government, what are its designs (Rigging to sustain democracy, Nation 27 September 2014)?

Internal stability is neither a priority with international actors who oversaw the sham democratic transition in May 2013. As repeatedly written by me, instability of Pakistan is an important plank of international policy to discredit and disarm Pakistan. This means the quadruple objectives of economic degradation, downsizing of armed forces, elimination of pro Kashmir groups and nukes. Though economic degradation is underway, Pakistan Army stands as an obstacle in the way of other three.

To facilitate infiltration of terrorists from Afghanistan, India would wish to suck Pakistan Army into the conventional eastern deployment. Every year Karachi and Balochistan heat up in winters.  In Indian calculus, the civilian government is pliable but the army needs to be bloodied and disgraced for its firewall on the Kashmir issue. Loss of credibility and face on the line of control and working boundary would help erode military’s public image and ensure degradation. The media will be used to do the rest.

India is being tacitly approved to militarily escalate against Pakistan. Confronted with an indecisive and pliant political leadership, the intangible credibility of Pakistan’s deterrence built on political will becomes questionable. This raises India’s leeway to raise the ante. The standoff also allows Indian strategists to romance with their ideas of fast moving and manoeuvring tank formations across Pakistan (BrassTacks) and Cold Start Doctrine duly supported by BVR capable air and naval power. Given the Civil-Military Disconnect in Pakistan, Indians reckon they can engage and win a limited military escalation under a nuclear shadow due to strategic depth (South and Andaman Islands), beyond BVR long range high altitude nuclear armed bombers and superior missile defence. The hawks that include Bikram Singh and Modi feel it is ‘now or never’ and will like to keep the window open for the next few months.

For thinkers and readers, the present escalations are to be studied from this perspective. Pakistan is under multi-dimensional threats.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://nation.com.pk/columns/11-Oct-2014/waltzing-on-nuclear-flashpoint#disqus_thread

October 5, 2014

SELLING HOUSEHOLD SILVER

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 11:34 am

lootsale

Pakistan’s household silver is up for sale to highest bidders. While one party mortgages the future of Pakistan’s resources, the other sells the silver. The Charter of Democracy provides a perfect camouflage to conceal corruptions in mutual back scratching. The slogan of Supremacy of Parliament is beyond what the eye can see and the most analytical mind can imagine. The plan to convert East India Company to West Pakistan Corporate is in full swing (Colonialism continues to rule Nation 9 May 2010). Government experts maintain that it is necessitated for both short and long term interests of the country. Is it?

How compromises on economic sovereignty, cost escalations and lack of value addition add to national wellbeing is indigestible. Economic and technical experts question high cost investments with specifically amended Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Rules (PPRAR) and Tariffs.

Take the so called proposed investment of $34 Billion from China. It is actually a hard loan carrying a return of 7%; much higher than the usual 2-4% Asian Development Bank and World Bank. This interest rate would go up to 15% when discounting factor and devaluation is applied to ascertain the real value of money after a certain period.In case of delayed payment this would rise even higher dis balancing the cost benefit ratio of any project.Financial Analysis has not been carried out in any project. NEPRA has approved exclusively escalated tariffs and revised the ‘Rate of Return’ on investment from 17% to 27%. This means a very high cost of electricity for consumers. Given the IPP policy, Pakistan and its future generations are mortgaged.

The Chinese Consortium and Banks insisted there will be NO BIDDING for the project under PPRAR. The government is bound to award the contract directly to Chinese or its affiliated companies. Rather than Pak-China Friendship, this is a reflection of the growing corporate China shop.

The government is willing to violate transparency and amend the PPRAR. Curiously, a similar violation forced Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf of PPP to repeatedly appear before the Supreme Court on Rental Power. In case of Metro Bus Lahore, the Punjab Government refused to cooperate with NAB over violations of PPRAR and had the Chairman packing through Supreme Court. Mysteriously the Lahore Development Authority office with all records was gutted. Chaudary Iftikhar deliberately stalled power projects of the PPP so that subsequently the new power generation mafia from Punjab could get a firm hold on the energy sector.

The pricing mechanism for awarding the contracts to Chinese is opaque. It will remain this way to conceal hidden profits that will be ultimately siphoned off. NEPRA has already accepted against rules a time barred Tarriff Review petition. The presence of Khawaja Muhammad Naeem the brother in law of Khawaja Asif, the Minister for Water and Power as member Punjab NEPRA is not without purpose. With an already exorbitant cost of contract, the logic of soaring rate of return defies logic. As against US$ 0.55 Million per megawatt in India, NEPRA has approved $1.7 million per megawatt in Pakistan. This means an escalation of 209%. Where will the extra cost of $1.15 Million per megawatt of electricity go is anybody’s guess?

Another question mark on these projects is third rate technology going extinct in the international market. China is under immense international pressure to close such plants. Due to environmental hazards the carbon credits for hydro based power projects in Pakistan will be compromised.  The coal will be imported from Indonesia. It is expected that the entire supply chain logistics will be managed by front companies at successive stages. Special rolling stock and railway lines will have to be laid from Port Qasim to Punjab to ensure uninterrupted supply of imported coal.

USA produces 56% of its needs from coal (mostly lignite) estimated at 267 Billion Metric Tons (BMT). Thar Coal estimated at over 184 BMTs produces zero.   The PPP government in Sindh sits over the world seconds largest lignite based coal reserves with strange technical inefficiency and administrative callousness. The type of projects being awarded with clumsy execution methods will never see the light of day. There is no urgency to exploit these massive reserves towards Pakistan’s energy needs.

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company Project has yet to take off in five years. As reported in media, no important infrastructure has achieved any significant physical progress despite spending Rs50 billion in the past five years. For technical reasons, these petty projects are doomed to failure. It is a very high cost project to treat lignite for its volatile and combustible nature for transportation to sites by rail and roads and then reverse it. This will also entail extra logistical of transportation by rail and road. The government of Sindh refuses to look in the right direction. Rather than deal with Thar Reservoirs as a national asset, they have divided the area into 12 blocks, to award contracts on give and choose basis. The advantage is kickbacks on feasibility studies and multiple project awards going nowhere. Litigations maintain the inertia.

Due to the volatile nature of lignite it is inadvisable to transport it. It is more feasible and economical to convert Lignite into gas and liquid petroleum products onsite. This has the added advantage for providing jobs, schools, hospitals, water for agriculture and communication infrastructure to local people.  According to international estimates, specially designed plants and refineries have to be set up close to the excavation sites to process lignite into electricity, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, jet fuel, petrol, diesel, fertilizer, water for irrigation and algae based ethanol plants for domestic fuel. The technology to install such onsite refineries is only with United States of America. According to one feasibility study by a Joint Pak-American Consortium, such a project has the potential to slash Pakistan’s import bills of oil by 27% within 18 months of commissioning in bloc 7. Incrementally expanded, it can meet Pakistan’s total energy needs for the next 100 years including production of over 300,000 Mega Watts of cheap electricity. But despite the low cost, huge gains and revolutionary socio-economic spinoffs, the government is bent on ignoring it.

By 2018, Pakistan will have no gas. No attention is being paid to the presence of over 9.1 billion barrels of oil and 107 trillion cu ft of gas in the shale. Thar coal in Sindh and Thal Bloc in KPK hold the future of Pakistan’s energy needs. Both are neglected.

There is other family silver being contemplated for sale too. It includes massive reserves of copper, gold, chromite, iron and precious stones. The belt runs from Chitral through Waziristan to Balochistan. The need is to convert every speck of dust to value addition. Pakistanis must rise against this daylight robbery.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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