Threats to Pak-China Solidarity


The Chinese engineers got ready for work as usual on Dasu Dam. Nine of them would never return. Tragic. Dasu is located in the breathtaking parts of the Kohistan District along the Karakorum Highway on the mighty Indus River. I don’t use “mighty” lightly. Those of us who have visited these parts would concur. The ferocity of the river’s flow and the accompanying noise of gushing waters where the mountain gorges narrow is both daunting and humbling. River Indus is one of the greatest resources for Pakistan, which is largely untapped except Tarbela Dam, which was constructed downstream in the sixties.
Dasu Dam’s location is near perfect. It would harness the energy generated by the gravity flow of the water, providing low-cost electricity giving relief from rising costs. Launched in 2017 by Nawaz Sharif, it was more for fanfare and political point-scoring with no intent to build it. No funding was provided, thus the project stalled. It was revived by the PTI government in 2019 as the construction commenced in 2020. Phase 1 would generate 2160 MW of low-cost electricity that would increase to 4320 MW upon completion of Phase 2 around 2025. The consortium building comprises an experienced Chinese Company and top turbine provider GE Electric. World Bank is providing part of the funding.
Why were such projects not undertaken earlier? No major hydroelectric project has been undertaken since the Mangla Dam. The answer is simple. Bhutto spent his term destroying the economy and attempting to build a civilian dictatorship. General Zia was too engrossed in prolonging his rule and by the Russian invasion. Both pursued selfish agendas without any long term commitment or vision for Pakistan. A futile controversy was started on the construction of Kalabagh Dam that continues 40 years on, without resolution.
In the first term of Benazir Bhutto, dams were considered, but abandoned for very intriguing reasons. A major hydroelectric project is an expensive proposition. It requires international donors and specialised experts who take a deep dive into all aspects including financial structuring. This transparency never suited Bhuttos or Sharifs.
Benazir Bhutto and her coterie discovered thermal power projects. They brought in shady sponsors to open doors to take bribes and kickbacks. The worst contracts for Pakistan started then and have continued ever since. Benazir, Nawaz and Zardari totally ignored the great potential for cheap energy through constructing dams and opted for the criminally expensive fuel-based option of power generation.
The hapless consumers are paying through their noses for these cruelly selfish agreements that raised the cost of electricity manifolds. This greedy lot caused the back-breaking revolving debt that will continue to crush the commoners for decades. 2018 brought a refreshing change. PM IK moved quickly to focus on hydroelectric power. He is relentlessly pursuing low-cost energy from river waters that have no price tag.
Pakistan has a strategic ally in China. Through tremendous progress, China in the last 40 years developed their capacity, technology and financial resources. They have shown a commitment that can be relied on. Fortunately, our borders meet and our strategic interests are common; peace and progress in the region. China has been there for the last 50 years. However, our co-operation did not move beyond security or trading. When the doors of progress opened in the last decade or so, the trio of Zardari and Sharif brothers wanted to focus on projects that would benefit them personally.
Now CEPAC and investment options have moved to front and centre. Thanks to the involvement of the Armed Forces and PM IK’s commitment to progress despite all transgressions. China found partners not seeking to enrich themselves; rather how to benefit the country. It has severely upset the detractors determined to obstruct all positive moves for Pakistan. They are from within and outside Pakistan. As CEPAC and development projects progress their desperation grows.
The background of Dasu was necessary to highlight its significance in moving away from high-cost energy sources. In the recent mishap, an explanation of mechanical failure was premature and absurd. I have repeatedly urged PM IK to control the mad dash of his team to grab a mic for breaking news. He needs to put an end to half-cocked, knee jerk explanations by eager beavers. We need to dig deeper. The enemy has its mercenary wolves lurking, ready to pounce to disrupt and destroy. The Chinese reaction was far more measured even though they seemed a bit annoyed.
A proper inquiry will reveal the cause. However, the need to harm Pak China cooperation is burning holes into the opponents. Modi spews hatred against Pakistani institutions. Any of our players on the political scene who pulls back punches and refrains from calling a spade a spade are suspect. An enemy’s friend cannot be a friend of Pakistan. You just have to follow closely the rhetoric of Maryam Nawaz galloping to distort facts and Indian Medias’ versions. You can pick the common threads.
No one is judging loyalty here. It is about the shared goals to demonise the Pakistani Establishment and get rid of PM IK at all costs that need to be recognised. Pak-China synergy can lead to progress to alleviate poverty and put the country on the trajectory to prosper. With China emerging as a global superpower and facilitating Pakistan’s development, the enemies will do their damnedest to drive a wedge in this relationship. There is an urgent need to beef up the security of our Chinese guests.