The recent bloodshed in the Indian-occupied Kashmir has received wide coverage in international as well as domestic Indian media, and condemned by a cross section of people. Even the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US have advised India to stop violence and resolve the issue through dialogue. It means they recognise the Kashmir dispute as an issue that has to be resolved, or otherwise they would not have made such a suggestion. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues with his bloated arrogance when the situation in Kashmir is volatile after Burhan Wani’s killing. Addressing the nation on the Independence Day, Modi among other things said: “In the last few days, the way the people of Balochistan, Gilgit, from Pakistan occupied Kashmir have thanked me, it is the honour of 1.25 billion people of India. I thank those people from Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”
The Indian prime minister has drawn flak for his comments from every strata of society. Leader-writers of renowned English dailies, who often blame Pakistan and India for their failure to resolve the disputes, have condemned the massacre of Kashmiris by Indian soldiers, which continues unabatedly for the last seven decades. They also termed the comparison of Kashmir with Balochistan by Modi as absurd. Of course, the catastrophe is big enough to move any conscientious human being but, unfortunately, there is apathy and insensitivity in the international community towards Kashmir where the Indian forces commit atrocities on the people in violation of universally accepted human rights. Not that the international community is unaware of repression and heinous crimes in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, it is simply the vested interests of western governments to remain mute just to please India. However, in the current situation, they have also started speaking.
In view of the fact that Indian media, intellectuals, writers and opinion makers always support their government’s stance on Kashmir, it is difficult to have a nuanced and multilayered discourse. In Pakistan, a section of intelligentsia and analysts has often criticised both Pakistan and India for their failure to resolve the issue, not realising that there are UNSC resolutions mandating the people of Kashmir to decide their future through a plebiscite under the aegis of the UN. Anyhow, some analysts and intellectuals in Pakistan take particular pride in an uninhibited expression holding it up ostentatiously as a manifestation of their independence of mind. In this pursuit, indulging in an unrestrained self-flagellation is the first pretentious device, for which they often pick on our military and its intelligence agencies, castigating them for everything wrong or ill in the country.
One can observe from their discourse that they consider personnel of Pakistan’s military and its agencies as evil, whereas those in RAW, CIA and NDS are saints. They have been undermining Kashmiris’ freedom struggle — the struggle that has cost Kashmiris enormously in lives, limbs, honour, dignity, political freedom and material losses, involving properties, orchards and gardens. They have rendered supreme sacrifices, and Indian military stands humbled at the hands of unbending Kashmiris. The crushing of Kashmiris’ freedom sentiment by the Indian state had started off when it militarily occupied the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir soon after independence. But over the past nearly four decades it has deployed more than half a million soldiers to stop the ubiquitous freedom sentiment from the mountains, vales and streets of its occupied Kashmir. India’s brutalising occupation army has left no savaging weapon untried to break and subdue the freedom-demanding Kashmiris, but it has failed.
They wholesale orgy of death and destruction that its rampaging military has indulged in so freely in the occupied territory has left not even many homes there without a family tragedy.
But Kashmiris have not bent; they stand tall, and their tormenting Indian military stands ignobly dwarfed. What bigger humiliation could Indian leaders see in their lifetime than this? Indeed, it is because of the persistent struggle and determination of Kashmiris that international community has started understanding the shenanigans of the Indian government, and its repression and barbarism in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. Prominent writers and academics as well as journalists, artists, students, doctors and concerned citizens from the UK and other countries issued a joint letter expressing solidarity with Kashmiris following the horrifying events. According to the organisers, over 900 signatures were obtained in less than 48 hours, which was not an ordinary achievement.
After Modi’s tirade, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri while addressing a rally slammed Indian prime minister’s controversial claim that the Baloch people had thanked him for his support of the so-called insurgency in the province. “We condemn Narendra Modi’s statement on Balochistan. No one in Balochistan supported his statement. There is no comparison between the struggle for liberation in India-held Kashmir and the so-called Balochistan insurgency,” Zehri stated.
On Thursday, there were protests across Balochistan with large numbers of tribesmen taking to the streets in Dera Bugti, Khuzdar, Quetta, Chaman and other parts of the province. Balochistan chief minister has a point, as elections are being regularly held in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, and elected governments are functional. Moreover, the situation is normal, and not like the one in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, and northeastern states of India.
Having said that, there is no denying that state violence or counter-violence never helps solve the problem. But the question is whether the big powers would help resolve the Kashmir issue. It does not look seem likely that they would; it is only when public protests fit into the geopolitical designs of the US and the West that they declare it a popular movement and honour it with the award of a colour label. The Orange Revolution of Ukraine, the Rose Revolution of Georgia, the Cedar Revolution of Lebanon, the earlier Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia would pale before the Kashmiris’ movement for their freedom, yet they were given colours by the colour-blind big powers. It has to be mentioned that in none of the above cases there was a UN mandate whereby Kashmiris have been given their inalienable right of self-determination by the UN in 1948 and 1949 UNSC resolutions.
The mind-boggling cycle of power sector bill
There is no end to power sector woes in Pakistan as receivables have crossed the 684 billion rupees mark — the highest it has ever been — despite a drastic 27 percent cut in generation costs. Receivables include outstanding amounts against power sector consumers, and recoverable by distribution companies, while their payables are amounts owed to independent power producers (IPPs), fuel suppliers and the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Soon after assuming power in 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had to face the problem of circular debt of around Rs 500 billion. In order to ward off the crisis under an interim arrangement, the government made payments of Rs 480 billion to certain IPPs. And three years later, the power sector bill has now reached the highest figure of Rs 684 billion.
The main stakeholders of the debacle of circular debt are government — represented by the Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA), generating companies (GENCOS), distribution companies (DISCOS) — and the private sector IPPs. As per procedure, the CPPA purchases electricity from power generation companies like IPPs and WAPDA — the latter now confined to hydel power alone — and then sells it to DISCOS. The crisis of circular debt arises when recovery of bills is not made against electricity sold to consumers. The main culprit in this default is the government itself, and some state institutions and departments. An additional factor contributing to circular debt is areas such as FATA and Balochistan, where paying utility bills is more the exception than the norm.
It is clear that payment of dues to IPPs for producing costly energy is a temporary solution that does not obviate the recurrence of circular debt. The government needs to treat the cause, not symptoms. Electricity suppliers, replicating their SOP regarding the common consumer, should cut off power supply to all those government ministries, departments and institutions that do not pay their energy bills. Without treating all consumers, government or private, in the same manner, the crisis will not be resolved. The government also needs to revisit its much-touted plans to change the electricity mix to more affordable proportions. The areas of hydel, coal and renewable energy await focused development. Without tackling the energy crisis in a holistic and effective manner, Pakistan’s future looks, literally, gloomy.
It is unfortunate that the masses bear the brunt of government’s inefficiency. There is a small portion of influential departments and individuals that do not bother to pay their bills. Why does the government fail to take action against defaulters? There is a need to rectify power distribution and recovery system instead of burdening those citizens who are paying their due charges on time. It would be hard to find an example anywhere in the world where citizens are forced to pay dues despite failures of the system. In order to meet line losses and end circular debt caused by other factors, government reportedly imposes undue surcharges on consumers. Instead of creating difficulties for the masses, the government needs to address the root causes by improving the recovery of utility bills.
And the first step is to make all big defaulters — industries and government sectors — to clear the outstanding amounts due to them. The day the system of payment is regulated — all utility bills to be paid on time and in full, whether the amount is Rs 1,000, Rs 100,000 or Rs 1,000,000 — a great deal of the woes of the power sector would be over.