CASA 1000 — a trans­for­ma­tional project?

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS - Ali Ashraf Khan

the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan. Though Afghan econ­omy needs elec­tric­ity and de­vel­op­ment cre­at­ing jobs and in­come more than any­body else the cur­rent Afghan gov­ern­ment seems ill pre­pared to see through such a project go­ing through the length of Afghanistan. Many of the prov­inces and dis­tricts con­cerned are not or not fully un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol and are rid­den by the on­go­ing civil war be­tween the ANA and in­sur­gent forces headed by the Tal­iban.

So far all ef­forts to come to terms with the in­sur­gents have been fu­tile and af­ter the lat­est Tal­iban at­tack in Kabul–part of their spring of­fen­sive Omari-and the ex­e­cu­tion of sev­eral Tal­iban pris­on­ers by the Afghan gov­ern­ment the quadri­lat­eral peace ini­tia­tive is as good as dead. The peace ef­forts have been pur­sued un­der false pre­con­di­tions. One is that the peace process was sup­posed to be Afghan-led. But again, the cur­rent Afghan gov­ern­ment is not in the sit­u­a­tion to lead – nei­ther a peace process nor a coun­try. Sec­ondly, Pak­istan has al­lowed it­self to be put in charge of bring­ing the Tal­iban to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble. This Pak­istan can­not de­liver. And thirdly, the cur­rent for­mat for peace talks that in­cludes a dis­tant coun­try like the US and ex­cludes neigh­bour­ing coun­tries like Iran and Rus­sia, is ill-con­ceived to tackle the prob­lem. In or­der to bring peace to Afghanistan and se­cure the way for CASA Pak­istan, Afghanistan and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity need to change their Afghanistan-re­lated pol­icy and then start a new peace ini­tia­tive. That will not hap­pen even by 2020 when CASA is sup­posed to be work­ing al­ready.

The sec­ond prob­lem con­cerns the very project struc­ture it­self. Can a project cost­ing US $ 997.00 mil­lion and fi­nanced at least partly by loans that have to be re­paid be run ef­fi­ciently when it works only dur­ing the sum­mer months? If this is to be made up through the prize for elec­tric­ity then it will be very ex­pen­sive. How will peo­ple and busi­nesses in poor coun­tries like Afghanistan and Pak­istan pay for it? Some in Cen­tral Asia see the project as too risky and eco­nom­i­cally non­vi­able as well. Niko­lay Kravtsov, a mem­ber of the Su­per­vi­sory Board for Fuel and En­ergy Com­plex un­der the Min­istry of En­ergy and In­dus­try, is the most out­spo­ken critic of CASA-1000. Ac­cord­ing to him, thanks to its rich hy­dropower re­sources, Ta­jik­istan would be the pri­mary bene­fac­tor from the project, while Kyr­gyzs­tan would still be ex­pected to in­vest up to $200 mil­lion for its im­ple­men­ta­tion with­out much ben­e­fit to it­self.

An­other ob­sta­cle which we are ig­nor­ing is the In­dia fac­tor in Afghanistan. Since long In­dia has al­ready built a state-of-the-art mo­tor­way project spend­ing $ 2 bil­lion in dif­fi­cult moun­tain re­gion con­nect­ing Ta­jik­istan via Afghanistan to Chouba­har deep sea port to cater for In­dian needs of Oil, gas and other items smoothly un­der­min­ing the much talked about Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor reach­ing Gwadar port. Pak­istani del­e­ga­tion should have protested at the inau­gu­ra­tion func­tion of CASA where Kash­mir and Gil­git-Baltistan was shown as In­dian ter­ri­tory by de­sign that kept our del­e­ga­tion silent, those who watched on TV have protested our for­eign of­fice com­petance, where no less then the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of gov­ern­ment was present with three other coun­tries head of gov­ern­ment. CASA elec­tric trans­mis­sion can be thus jeop­ar­dized by the US+In­dia+Afghanistan and Is­rael nexus when it wants to cur­tail Chi­nese ex­pan­sion in Asia.

And there is an­other prob­lem for Pak­istan as well. De­spite the soar­ing en­ergy cri­sis there are con­sid­er­able dis­tri­bu­tion and trans­mis­sion losses, which in Pak­istan is a po­lite ex­pres­sion for theft. Across the coun­try, 22 per cent (other sources claim higher per­cent­age of power losses) of the gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity is lost due to theft and some in trans­mis­sion losses due to out­dated trans­mis­sion sys­tems. Has any­body heard our Prime Min­is­ter or Wa­ter & Power Min­is­ter who are so ea­ger for CASA 1000 to talk about up­grad­ing our own trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion net­work or fee col­lec­tion to ar­rest losses? CASA has a scant per­spec­tive of im­ple­men­ta­tion at least for the years to come. But oth­er­wise, it shows Pak­istan a bet­ter way to tackle our en­ergy prob­lems: Pak­istan is only us­ing less than 40% of its wa­ter re­sources for gen­er­a­tion of hy­del power. Since last 4 decades Pak­istan has tried to de­velop Kal­abagh or Bhasha dam from where we could gen­er­ate more than 6000 MW each. In­stead of re­ly­ing on wa­ter and power and press­ing these projects our present rulers had an­nounced half a dozen coal-fired power projects near Karachi coast, with­out con­sid­er­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences that they will add to global warm­ing. Coal based power gen­er­a­tion is an out­dated method. Why would Pak­istan use this out­dated and dis­carded by China tech­nol­ogy? When our wheel of pro­duc­tiv­ity has been jammed due to en­ergy crises.

The pro­pa­ganda that the Prime Min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment is mak­ing to serve his coun­try in the first place the goal to de­pict so­called suc­cesses of his gov­ern­ment with re­gard to the forth­com­ing elec­tions in 2018 and to dis­tract at­ten­tion from Panama pa­per scan­dal to con­fuse the na­tion who are the ma­jor vic­tim of fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tions, loot and plun­der that is go­ing on un­der In­ter­na­tional agenda. We pray to God to grant serin­ity and courage to our lead­ers to se­cure our na­tional in­ter­est first. God bless Pak­istan and hu­man­ity.\ — The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

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