THE ground-breaking for the Bhasha dam project has taken place. But the Pakistani authorities have yet to get their act together and press ahead with their legitimate claims to funding from the International Financial Institutions.
A report in this newspaper yesterday indicated that against its own rules and procedures, the World Bank has been stalling over discussions on the Bhasha dam — and yet Pakistan has done little to challenge the Bank’s wrongful approach. The problem is reasonably straightforward to explain, technicalities notwithstanding: whenever a hydel project is to be built with Bank funding in disputed territory — as Gilgit-Baltistan is owing to the Kashmir dispute — a state to the dispute can have such funding stalled by demonstrating that the project would materially affect its claim to the territory.
The important point to note is that the onus is on the state objecting to the project to prove the latter would affect its territorial claims. However, in the case of Bhasha, it is believed that the Indian government has informally objected to the dam and the World Bank has ignored its own rules/burden of proof to allow the Indian objections to prevail.
Unfortunate as the Bank’s stance may be, the question that needs to be asked here in Pakistan is: why haven’t Pakistani officials pressed their very legitimate and rightful claim to seeking World Bank financing more urgently? Therein lies a key part of the answer to Pakistan’s deepening energy woes: the administrative apparatus here is too inert and suffers from a numbing lack of direction by the political leadership. It’s a tale that has been told so many times already that it hardly bears repetition. A country’s energy requirements are a key part of its national security strategy. We can take as examples China, the US and the advanced European economies. They have searched far and wide for energy supplies and pressed their national interest in every international fora. On the other hand, there is Pakistan, an increasingly water-stressed and energy-deficient country.
Bhasha is no panacea, but it could be a very important plank in Pakistan’s energy and water requirements for a generation or two.
What needs to be done is reasonably clear. Externally, Pakistan needs to push the World Bank to adhere to its own policies and not be influenced by Indian hectoring or complaints. Internally, Pakistan needs a coherent energy policy that focuses on exploiting local resources and bridging gaps by seeking energy supplies from abroad where necessary. But knowing what needs to be done and doing it are two separate matters.(Dawn)