Defence & Diplomacy

A project delayed beyond comprehension

By Raja G Mujtaba

The Federal Minister’s statement that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline must go through bears a testimony to what I have been saying over a period of time that Pakistan and Iran have become need of each other therefore we must opt and at the earliest for this offer from Iran, as it’s in our prime national interest. I would go some extra steps that we should not restrict our energy supplies to gas alone; we must also negotiate to acquire oil and electricity.

S M Hali’s TV talk covers it very comprehensively where I was on the panel with Dr. Shaukat Hameed Khan. The video link of the same is placed at the end of the report for the readers to watch and comment.

Energy is the bloodline from which the health of an economy can be gauged. Energy consumption is a vicious circle, stronger the economy greater the consumption, today the United States consumes about 23% of world oil production whereas Pakistan consumes in decimals. Governments with vision and foresight have all worked to ensure and secure their lifelines. Pakistan had that vision during Ayub Khan era when dams, power projects, oil and gas exploration was in full swing. In short it was an economic boom in every sphere that made Pakistan a model for others to emulate.

We have always criticized the military dictators but interestingly the economy enjoyed much better health as compared to the so called 

democratic periods. A comparative analysis is attached for the benefit of the readers. By making this statement, it’s not extending any support to military rule but it’s for the general consumption of the readers.

Pakistan’s own energy resources have not been tapped or exploited to its true potential. Pakistan drills around 50 or 60 wells a year whereas Canada does around 22,000 wells a year. Besides Pakistan has not even touched it’s off shore prospects. If Pakistan explores its true potential then besides meeting its needs, Pakistan can become an energy surplus country.

By drilling few wells, the energy needs cannot be met where the consumption is on the rise. Countries with greater commitment not only exploited their own resources but also ensured secure energy supplies from outside also. Balochistan is a rich area and it is 40% of Pakistan but due to security reasons, no drilling or exploration is being carried out there.

Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline hit the headlines sometimes in 1995 in the times of Nawaz Sharif government. At the very onset, two major external players tried to kill it, one being India herself and the other was the US. Even India acted negatively on the behest of America but extracted nuclear reactors that would compensate the Indian demand. Once that was done, America was at complete liberty to threaten Pakistan and force her to accept the American dictates. Many a times, Pakistan has been forced by the Americans to forego her vital national interests and procurement of energy is one of them.  Right now India (Hindutwa) is very much entrenched with Zionism and wants to pursue the agenda of world domination; presence of the foreign powers in Afghanistan is sitting on choke to control the oil supplies from Central Asia region.

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America is out hunting energy, its presence in Afghanistan is a strong indicator of that, and it has her NATO allies with her to share the

 booty. From Afghanistan, it has the potential to dominate Central Asia and Pakistan, but the US must know that Pakistan is no pushover. Initially Pakistan failed to sense this game of chess therefore it got embroiled in the so called ‘War on Terror.’ This not only destroyed Pakistan’s economy and infrastructure etc. but went a long way to destabilize the country as a whole. Balochistan and FATA were targeted where internal strife were given full fuel to burn in every possible manner be it ethnic, sectarian or parochial. Foreign involvement is more than proved. Now Pakistan is staging a comeback where not only the Army has taken a principled stand but the civil society has also come out to defy the US.

Balochistan the largest province of Pakistan is rich in hydro-carbons and other mineral resources, if these are tapped to its potential, not only it can meet Pakistan’s energy needs but can also transform the economy and lifestyle of Balochistan. To enhance energy security, a safe, secure and stable Balochistan is a pre-requisite that cannot be attained without the cooperation of the Baloch people.

Personally, I have no grudge against the tribal leaders but one can only say that there is some communication gap between the political powers and the tribal leaders that led to a failure where the Baloch people could not be enticed and lured into mainstream politics. Almost all of them are patriotic Pakistanis but stand alienated and disgruntled for one reason or the other; there has to be a political dialogue to bring everyone on board. Former Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, a hardcore Pakistani was also not tolerated and allowed a complete tenure by the political prostitutes who have no scruples.

The other day, Attaullah Khan Mengal talking to Nawaz Sharif minced no words and attacked the Pakistan Army when he said ‘Punjabi Army’ for carrying out operations in Balochistan. Sardar Attaullah must know that Army does not carry out any operation at its own; it always has a directive from the Federal Government when a political failure occurs but the politicians are not prepared to accept that. Of the two military operations, one was ordered by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The beauty of a political process is that there is no use of force but mutual adjustments and the work goes on in routine.

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It’s not only Attaullah Mengal, every politician for his/her failure shifts the blame on to the army that’s neither fair nor desired. This weakens the institutions; and weakening of our institutions only invites the aggressors that no sane patriotic person desires.

It must be remembered that Pakistan Army is a national army, it does not function on parochialism, those who try to taint it as such are basically conspiring against the state.  To further elaborate, it must be known that amongst the12 army chiefs, General Ashfaq Kayani is only the fourth Army Chief from the Punjab, rest have been from other provinces including Balochistan; three were migrants. No unit of Pakistan Army is pure, all have a mix from other provinces also but still people have made it a habit to criticize the Army which is never in the national interest.  In a larger national interest, the national leaders must refrain from politicizing the army and display magnanimity and maturity expected of them.

Hindutwa-Zionism axis with open approval of US and her NATO allies is playing its role of world domination; both are busy digging in Afghanistan to control the Central Asian oil and dominate the region. America is fully developing and supporting India to be the dominant power in the region, Islamic-Nuclear Pakistan is the only hurdle in her way.

TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline is the only pipeline that the US wants Pakistan to accept; there is nothing wrong with it but its economic feasibility as compared to Iran-Pakistan needs to be evaluated. Also, Afghanistan is under American domination where India has a strong presence, therefore it would be prone to blockades both by India and the US. If today we were dependent on TAPI, closing the NATO supplies would not have been possible; this makes it all the more important that we must also go for the project with Iran but not opting out of TAPI.

Pakistan is wastefully burning its natural gas at the cost of the industry and agriculture. It has the highest number of vehicles running on gas in the world. About 75% cars in Pakistan are on CNG, and the other public transport like vans and busses are also converting onto CNG. This has denied gas to fertilizer factories and other industries that so desperately need it to keep the wheels of economy moving. A systematic shut down of all CNG stations is most desired but in doing so some formula must be worked out that it does not run the operators into bankruptcy.

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Same time we should go for renewable and alternative energy resources. Pakistan has strong potential for such energy generation.  Hydel-power projects can generate over 60,000 MW that can also act as water reservoirs. The coast line and Thatha Basin are ideal for windmills, if given the requisite impetus; it can generate clean energy to meet the needs of the lower Sind and coastal areas. Domestic consumption should be shifted to solar energy for which the nature has been very kind and Pakistan has abundant sunshine the year round; this would also make viable the production of the high-tech panels locally.

Recently Thar coal, one of the largest world deposits has been tested and proven feasible, they have also decided to erect a power generation plant of 100 MW to test run it. If the pilot project proves a success, it can considerably reduce the oil import bills.

Once we can generate sufficient power from renewable sources, entire railways and city transport should be shifted on electric power. This would not only cut on oil imports but also reduce pollution in the cities.

The present energy crisis is not for lack of generation capacity but a willful act to keep the people suffering and hurting the economy. Against a demand of 15,000 MWs capacity stands at 20,000 MWs whereas the production is only 11,000 MWs. Whatever the reason maybe, there is no justification to create energy crisis in the country.

America and her allies are out hunting oil and other resources that they not only want but control it to an extent that other countries become dependent on them and accept their hegemony in totality. This is one of the major factors that the US never allowed Pakistan to sign off any energy deal with Iran. Iran is under sanctions not for being a threat to the US but purely because the post Shah Iran has refused to accept Israeli hegemony; on the contrary it opposes Israel and even threatens to retaliate if Iran be attacked by the US and her surrogate Israel.

Now that Pakistan has taken a bold step of blocking NATO supplies and getting back of Shamsi base therefore in the same flow of defiance, Pakistan should go ahead and sign off the deal so that the pipeline is laid in the shortest possible time.

China is a major energy consumer that needs energy from all sources is likely to join in this project; this would add a third dimension to it. Through this, not only price bargaining would be easier but same time energy security would also be ensured against any foreign intervention. And by default Pakistan would also earn for the transmission of the gas to China.