Extremism and energy shortage are the monsters that must be tamed if Pakistan is to contemplate any meaningful progress in either the social or the industrial sectors. The former has devastated the image of the country and our people overseas, while the latter has ruined our economy. The successful army operations have managed to disperse the organisational structure of militants and with the inevitable exit of the NATO forces from Afghanistan, a semblance of peace may begin to return. The other menace of interrupted power has made the lives of common citizens miserable and has robbed many employed in small sized business units or factories of their livelihood. Fortunately, a ray of hope has glimmered on the horizon and we may soon see the end of the energy shortages. The eminent scientist, Dr Samar Mubarakmand was inducted in the Planning Commission on his retirement at the end of a distinguished service, during which he helped put together our nuclear and missile programmes and successfully tested the end products. The scientist was entrusted with the portfolios of science and technology, human resource, information technology, commerce, higher education and mineral development. It was a rare display of prudence and recognition of merit that is certain to pay handsome dividends. As he started to familiarise himself with mineral development that appeared to be the one sector he knew very little about, he stumbled to discover a source of electricity generation far in excess of our needs by using our indigenous resources at the most economical cost. Electricity is generated using electro-mechanical generators primarily driven by heat engines in centralised power plants from where power lines can transport electricity at great distances at a small cost. Power plants are run on water power, coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric, petroleum, solar energy or wind generators. Pakistan has an installed capacity to produce 19,500MW electricity, out of which 65 percent is produced using fossil fuel, 33 percent by hydro and two percent by nuclear power. Presently, there is a shortfall of 3000 to 4000MW of electricity during peak periods due to which the public has to be subjected to a loadshedding programme and the small and medium size industry has lost its competitive edge. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) established by the government a few years ago has been engaged in developing solar and wind power without much success. Our country is blessed with plenty of sunshine that can be transformed into solar energy by installing giant solar panels. The cost of these panels however is prohibitive. Turbines can generate electricity from naturally occurring wind that is also available free of cost. Such plants can generate only a few megawatts of electricity that can be used for local consumption and do not offer a solution to our ever increasing requirements. Further, neither can be operational when there is no sunlight or wind. The cost of putting up power plants using fossil or hydro power is in multiples of approximately $2 to $3 billion per 1000MW, while nuclear power plant that produces the cleanest electricity will be even costlier at around $4 billion per 1000MW. The minimum construction period of a large dam on our rivers with free flowing water is around 10 years and involves relocation of a sizeable population of the area with enormous social, political and management costs. Thermal power plants are fuelled by imported diesel that raises the cost of the product beyond the capacity of the ordinary citizen and makes the industry using expensive electricity less viable. Coal emits gases that pollute the environment due to which financing for such projects will not be forthcoming in an environmentally conscious world. As the good doctor investigated further, he was informed that Thar in the Sindh province has the second largest coal deposits in the world sufficient to produce 50,000MW of electricity for the next 700 years. The estimated value of these deposits exceeds the combined value of oil deposits in the gulf and Saudi Arabia. The deposits are however buried at a depth of 500 feet below ground and are not the commonly known stone type but are in a powder form. Below the hard rock there is a deep layer of water that has seeped underground as a consequence of global warming that has raised the sea level. Even if one gets to the coal deposits by mining, water will rush in. On further research it was discovered that about 15 countries around the world have similar deposits and they are extracting it by using plants that have been developed for this specific use and are now commercially available. The method consists of drilling two holes and inserting two tubes. Oxygen or air is inserted through one tube and the coal is ignited to release gas that is extracted through the second tube. The burning process is slow and may take about 12 months before the gases can be extracted. Chemical plants will free the gas from the sulphur and bitumen contents and the purified gas will be used to drive the turbines that will produce electricity. The same process can be used to produce diesel or methane that is commonly known as sui gas. The cost of this project will be a multiple of $0.9 billion per 1000MW generation of electricity. The cost of electricity produced will be under three cents per unit, including 20 percent per annum depreciation using our own coal. There will be no environmental pollution. Besides electricity, gas and diesel can also be available. A British company has already been allocated a block in the Thar Desert. Another block and funds to start a pilot project have been approved and allocated by the Planning Commission for Dr Samar. The success of this project will be a major breakthrough and promises to be a light at the end of the gloomy and dark tunnel where the people of Pakistan inhabit. One wonders why the huge contingent of capable engineers and administrators employed in electricity production, transmission and distribution departments and ministries or the learned university engineering and geotechnical professors could not realise this potential that has been known to all. Why a scientist, who has no expertise in electricity generation but has enthusiasm, dedication and national interest at heart had to come forward and show them the way? Is it the powerful oil lobby that monopolises large profits on the oil imports that has prevented any steps in this direction? The federal and Sindh government, the President, Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Sindh are said to be enthusiastic about this potential at the moment. We just hope and pray this project does not fall prey to political wrangling or vested interests. It was Z. A. Bhutto in the seventies who said that the nation will eat grass but not abandon its nuclear programme. Providence has given a chance to his successors to prove that they believe in the ideologies that he gave his life for. The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur Email: k.a.k786@hotmail.com