Zaheer Bhatti The first time Pakistan entered the Guinness Book of World Records was when it completed and commissioned the worlds largest dam at Tarbela in 1974, whose reservoir lent to a huge hydel power generation capacity enabling large-scale electrification and bringing a green revolution in agrarian Pakistan, known at that time as the land of rivers. That was the first step towards reaching food autarky and sensing a real air of freedom. But several decades down the line, Pakistans major dams are silt-laden with their storage capacity drastically lowered, while our rivers are being dried up courtesy an ever inimical neighbour. Having failed to bring about political consensus over another proposed water reservoir namely the Kalabagh Dam, Pakistan was led to a self-destructive path in going for the most expensive method of alternate power through independent power producers (IPPs), which were commissioned to generate oil-based power in the mid-nineties of the last century, 15 years ago. Domestic power tariff alone as a result registered a 500 percent increase steeply raising the commercial bill, and started the strangling of the poor. Ironically, it happened during the third term of the PPP in government, Benazirs second. Successive civil and military governments, having fruitlessly toyed with the Kalabagh feasibility, eventually seemed to have abandoned it. The PPP yet again in its fourth stint in office has pulled out another disaster plan for the country, to ostensibly stave off the impending energy crisis, but has only succeeded in presenting the nation with the gift of the worst power crisis. After casting a hallow of gloom through unbearable loadshedding, the government has sought to induct this time, the rental power plants at a colossal cost, rather than repair and enable its existing power units to operate to full capacity. The former finance minister expressed serious reservations saying that it would not only drain billions from the already strained national exchequer, but also further burden the consumer with another steep raise in power tariff. One would have hoped that the government, chastened by the findings of the Asian Development Bank which it was forced to commission for audit and expert opinion, would abandon the shady commissioning. Sensing foul in the government intent, the forthright Shaukat Tarin not only washed his hands off the dirty linen but also resigned from the senators slot. The Bank had not only declared rental power unfeasible and likely to raise power tariff by over 40 percent, but also felt that it smacked of corruption. Such has been the apathy of successive governments that taking cover of local area negative effects, they have put the entire countrys landmass on the line? Had the likes of Ghazi Barotha and Bhasha dams been set afloat 25 years ago, Pakistan would not have landed in the predicament it is facing now. The president had the cheek to promise to the people, a gift they would cherish. Indeed, his government did present the people with a steep raise in tariffs for gas, electricity and diesel, and on which the bulk of public transport and the common man depend. With another raise in transport fares, the other day the infuriated public ransacked the twin cities but the ruling party refused to realise that the worst was still to come, as they are busy defending the NRO, and scratching each others back to continue their exploitation of the masses. The country has gone back to the dark ages, as people are reverting to the use of firewood, coal and kerosene stoves and lamps for their energy needs while the tiller seeks to revive his man-driven water well and plough, rather than energy-based tube well and tractor, whose bill has gone beyond his reach. Localities with no gas connections were resorting to the chopping of trees and bushes for firewood, contributing to environmental hazards. With the current unexplained gas shortages, the people are being forced into the coal/kerosene option, adding to pollution. It is a shame for a nation, which professes to have entered the 21st century with a bang. A bang it indeed is, in sinking to inconceivable lows with a sizeable section stealing energy, and the mindless leadership rather that plugging leakages and making contingent plans, continues playing Neros flute. We have failed on the political and diplomatic front in impressing upon India, in particular, and the rest of the world community, in general, the need to faithfully implement the Indus Waters Treaty brokered between the two neighbours. With the US, as expected, refusing to chastise India on the issue, if Indian water terrorism does not halt, Pakistan must lose no time in going to the International Court of Justice, to arrest the impact of Indian stranglehold over Pakistans river water sources originating from occupied Kashmir. The energy shortfall has crossed 4,600 MW but the man in-charge rather than announcing a deadline for commissioning a number of small dams to avert the crisis, insists that the only alternative is rental power. One may ask, what happened to the acquisition of nuclear capability for peaceful purposes, which was meant to put nuclear reactors into operation for the generation of a cheaper source of nuclear energy, for domestic, agricultural and industrial use? Why are we not tapping sources such as biogas, solar and wind energy, which are being used as alternate fuel all over the world since decades? The Pakistani industry has virtually come to a halt due to incessant loadshedding while the general public is moaning and groaning, and the government refuses to slash its outrageous non-developmental spendings. But do we care? The writer is a freelance columnist.