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Kalabagh Dam

A Breathing Space

A year after celebrating our 50th year as an independent country, we desperately need a breathing space. The last three months beginning May 11, the day of the Indian nuclear blasts, has been a period of successive crisis. Locked into a no-win situation we had no option in the face of blatant Indian intransigency but to react, despite the dire warnings of the west laced with incentives, on May 28 we did. Whereas the sanctions imposed against India were at best a mockery of intention, in relative terms the strict enforcement against Pakistan is a travesty of justice. We have lurched from a serious geo-political crisis to an economic meltdown but none so potent a disaster as the erosion of national unity because of the nefarious exploitation of the Kalabagh Dam issue.

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Deja vu?

The state of the economy is precarious. The head of government did not resort to subterfuges and minced no words in confirming what was more than just a suspicion, in the past few months we had reached a climax of sorts in being systematically sold down the river, flags waving and bands playing. While surreptitiously and simultaneously signing away our options, our ex-financial genius (and part-time politician) was extolling the health of the economy, so much for intellectual honesty. Safe within the portals of the Senate, he now informs us that he had only signed a “Letter of Intent” and not an agreement which, he remonstrates, the present government is free to re-negotiate, conveniently papering over the fact that an Intent is an agreement in principle and successor governments run the risk of being ostracised if they do not honour sovereign commitments once made. Irrespective of the fact that the state of the economy justified the agreement in principle and the extent is not disputed in the circumstances, the manner and timing is simply deplorable, so was the Hobson’s Choice given to any new government. It was a loaded weapon and Ms. Benazir’s decision to avoid adventurism was pragmatic inasfar as it avoided the Catch-22 type trap manifest in re-opening the arguments, more power to the new government’s financial brain trust that they chose to roll with the punch.

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