This may sound something out of place to many, but this is a very good, timely advice to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take the greatest risk of his political career; take the chief ministers of the federating units into confidence and give the long-awaited go-ahead signal to WAPDA for the construction of the multi-purpose Kalabagh Dam.

This is the direst need of the time that is running out of our hands – and we have wasted lot of time already – not constructing a major storage facility after Tarbela Dam, which was completed in 1974.

There is no doubt that through the efforts of the federal and provincial governments, thousands of megawatts of electricity are going to be inducted in the national grid by the end of 2018, if all goes well with the blessings of Almighty Allah. But in all fairness, the lingering problems of shortage of electricity and water can only be solved on a permanent basis in a satisfactory manner with the construction of the multi-purpose Kalabagh Dam.

The people of Sindh and KPK, who are clamouring for and protesting about no electricity or water should ask their political leaders to open their minds and hearts and demand and support the construction of Kalabagh Dam even now, though we have wasted much time already in wasteful and useless debate against the dam with negative minds. Members of their political leadership have been creating obstructions in the construction of Kalabagh Dam merely on political grounds for their vested interests at the cost of supreme national interests for decades together. It is quite unfortunate that some of them are reported to have stated sometime back that since they have opposed Kalabagh Dam publicly, as such they cannot support it even if it is good for the nation and the country.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), now headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as its Chairman and former President and his father Asif Ali Zardari as its Co-Chairman, which is in power in Sindh, scrapped Kalabagh Dam project with one stroke of the pen during its rule at the centre in 2008. The Raja from Gujjar Khan, as the Minister for Water and Power, had made that most unfortunate statement soon after assuming office after which the very mention of Kalabagh Dam from official documents was eliminated.

India is deadly opposed to construction of the multi-purpose Kalabagh Dam and that unfortunate pronouncement would certainly have made New Delhi’s rulers happy then.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) is in power in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah (KP). However, the stance of PTI leaders and its provincial government regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam is not firmly known to this scribe; even though KPK former governments have been opposing Kalabagh Dam on the unfounded premise that the major storage development will sink Nowshera.

If the chief ministers of the four federating units can gather around Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting and be part of the Pakistan delegation to China to participate in the One-Belt One-Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing during the last couple of months, why cannot they brush aside their petty interests, demonstrate greater national spirit and issue the unanimous call for the construction of Kalabagh Dam?

It is a matter of record that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has the credit of resolving water apportionment issue among the provinces amicably and getting the Indus Water Apportionment Accord signed by the provinces in 1991 through national consensus.

The same spirit of national consensus needs to be developed by all concerned on inspiring the motivation of the Prime Minister for the construction of the Kalabagh Dam which will generate 2400 to 3600 megawatts of electricity and store more than seven Million Acre Feet (MAF) of water for irrigation purposes for three years. Against all the dam projects in hand, the Kalabagh Dam can be constructed in six years at a cost of 9 billion dollars, will resolve electricity and water shortages on a long-term basis and give a befitting response to India’s increasing water aggression against Pakistan.

Needless to say that the name of whosoever dares to take this bold decision about the construction of the Kalabagh Dam through a national consensus, which somehow remains elusive, will be written in golden words in the annals of history forever. Let there be another federation picture be taken on evolving the national consensus for construction of the Kalabagh Dam, please.

The writer is a Lahore-based freelance journalist, columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

zahidriffat@gmail.com