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ہفتہ، 2 مارچ، 2013

Iran-Pakistan pipeline

It is quite understandable that Mr Zardari felt the project to be of great benefit to Pakistan; for the Iranian gas would go a long way towards meeting the energy requirements of Pakistan where the people have to go through a trying experience of loadshedding lasting for hours on end every day. Mr Zardari was also received by Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who stressed that the project must go ahead despite the US opposition.
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Taking her usual pro-America line, in her latest article ‘Not a perfect world’ published in a daily, the writer airs her depressing views about Iran-Pakistan pipeline, saying it is in the headlines again, but for the wrong reasons, and wrong reason, according to her, is that the United States and its pack of hunting dogs, the western countries, are after Iran.

In her self-assured manner, she declares signing of the agreement a political gimmick by the Peoples Party, just to gain some extra votes which the defiance of the United States in the prevailing anti-America public mood will bring. However, further down in her article, she says “The pipeline could also help Pakistan pursue an independent foreign policy, rather than base all decisions around the contours of its relationships with China and the US. The ability to prioritize domestic concerns is a strong sign of political maturity and stability.”

She agrees that the construction of pipeline could generate some employment in Balochistan while it could also help us generate another 4,000 mw of power the absence of which is increasing unemployment. She also declares that IP pipeline is more feasible than the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, and later says “the IP pipeline seems unfeasible for the same reasons as Tapi.” I think she should make up her mind as to what she wants to say instead of just contradicting herself, and confusing the readers as to what message she wants to convey.

Her statement “Western opinion is turning against sanctioning rogue nations” while indicating an opposition to sanctions in the West, is highly objectionable as it implies that the nations subject to sanctions now or before are rogues while the Western nations are all angels. She seems to have completely forgotten imperial history of the Western nations, what Western invaders did to the indigenous population of United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, in short wherever they set their foot. Even in recent times, their conduct in Vietnam and Iraq is right before us, qualifies them as nothing but thugs, scoundrels and murderers of the worst kind. As a matter of fact, two of the oldest disputes, Kashmir and Palestine, which have remained unsolved for more than half a century, and which are responsible for major terrorist activity around the world, including 9/11, are creations of these Western angels. It was Britain that gave the Muslim-majority areas with access to Kashmir to India and established Israel as a thorn in the flesh of Palestinians.

It is also the unqualified support of US and the West that has made Israel the monster it has become which continues treating Palestinians with contempt, subjecting them to ridicule, humiliation and worst forms of human rights violations in their own land illegally occupied by Israel. On the basis of their conduct, these Western nations hardly qualify for the high regard in which she seems to hold them.
Her opposition to Iran-Pakistan pipeline is mainly due to the threat of sanctions but she herself admits that opinion in the West is turning against sanctions because it creates ill-feelings against them. We also know that the US has given exemption to some countries from sanctions and since the US and NATO countries need economical, short supply route through Pakistan for getting most of their supplies in Afghanistan and they will need this just as much while evacuating from there, Pakistan is in a strong position. She could also have suggested that if Pakistan stood firm, there is every possibility that the US would give Pakistan a waiver. However, she feels more comfortable pleading Americans’ case with us, as well as trying to frighten us of disastrous consequences that could follow through defying the US.



The writer says “Finally, Pakistan can’t be sure that the US won’t impose tough sanctions, which could lead to a reorientation of US-Pakistan relations from engagement to isolation, with Washington simultaneously taking a zero-tolerance stance against Pakistani militancy. In response, Pakistan would likely take on a spoiler role in Afghanistan. Such policy shifts would undermine regional stability and forever snuff out the possibility of Islamabad and Washington having anything more than a transactional relationship.

She forgets that our relations with the US have always been nothing but transactional and most of the time, the US ditched us at times of our extreme need, and the pattern is likely to continue, rather get worse in future. In the present round, Americans apologized for their conduct earlier and promised to be different this time but actually proved worse than before. The Abbottabad raid and the killings at Salala post, with refusal even to offer a proper apology hardly show an inclination to ‘engage.’

This time, the whole western gang came up with a promise to help us. The ‘friends of democratic Pakistan forum was launched with great fanfare but fizzled out and we do not even hear of it any more. It was the same with the US. During meetings with the US, various sub-committees were formed to provide us specialist help in various fields, but the committees never progressed beyond promises and in due course, died their natural death. 

Even the project ‘reconstruction opportunity zones’ which was supposed to provide $ 150 million a year for five years for development in FATA was cancelled. Abandoning us, the US is busy courting India which it wants to prop up as a leader in the region, and as a US partner in its ultimate war with China.

This naturally puts us in the enemy camp, based on America’s ‘with us, or against us’ policy. I am rather surprised that despite America’s past and present conduct with us, anyone could even dream that we could have anything but purely transactional relationship with the US: a transaction in which we are sure to end up as overall losers. The $ 70 billion loss which we have incurred due to our association with the US war on terror is far greater than the total aid we received from the US from 1947 up till now and the nearly 40,000 soldiers and civilians killed come on top of that.

Declaring Pakistan’s recent strong moves on the Pipeline project as election stunt, she says “The problem with pre-election stunts is that they are often shelved the moment elections are successfully contested. And that is especially true in this case since Pakistan can’t afford to build the pipeline. Sadly, this counterproductive stunt will distract from more viable domestic measures to address the energy crisis, including reducing energy theft, improving infrastructure to prevent inefficiencies and developing Pakistan’s local gas fields.”

She has completely ignored the strong possibility that the badly-bruised Peoples Party, which could not manage to get simple majority while it had the benefit of ‘sympathy’ votes is unlikely to fare any better due to its worst performance during the last five years. Moreover, some other parties, which boycotted elections last time, like Jamaat-e-Islami and a much strengthened Tehreek-e-Insaf are also in the field now, while MQM is also planning to field its candidates throughout Pakistan. Dr. Tahirul Qadri is also expected to announce participation in the general election by his Pakistan Awami Tehreek, about which he has promised to make a definitive statement in his address in Rawalpindi on March 17. So, even if announced as an election gimmick, Pakistan Iran pipeline project is likely to be pursued vigorously by other parties which are likely to form the next government.

Our partnership with Iran could also speed up additional projects like 1,000 mw Taftan-Quetta transmission line, 400 mw Gawadar power supply project, Noshki-Dalbandin highway and up-gradation of Quetta-Taftan track in addition to establishment of a refinery in Gwadar.

Also, going for the IP pipeline and pursuing other ‘ viable domestic measures’ suggested by the writer are not mutually exclusive options act both have to be pursued to meet the ever-increasing energy needs.

As for the unrest in Balochistan, it is a threat not only to IP pipeline, but also to continued existence of Pakistan as a viable state and has got to be dealt with in a coordinated manner along with law and order problem elsewhere in the country. With Chinese coming to Gwadar, more employment opportunities will be created in the province, and the two countries together will bring the Balochistan situation under control, and soon: this has got to be done, and will be done. With so many new, enthusiastic entrants in the political field now, things can not remain the same like they they did in the past.
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By S.R.H. Hashmi

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