DEFENCE Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtars remark that world powers, whom he did not name, were preventing a national consensus to emerge on the issue of building Kalabagh Dam constitutes a shameful admission by a top government functionary about how deep an influence outside enemy forces are able to exercise in the countrys purely internal matters. In a way, the official revelation of foreign interference should not come as a surprise; the way the affairs of the state are being run, it becomes so apparent. It is already the talk of the town. That the government should be viewing this foreign hobnobbing with equanimity is extremely shocking, to say the least. These world powers, working to the detriment of national interests, ought to have been told to mind their own business. Such interference must be exposed and the countries named so that the general public knows who are conspiring to scuttle our development efforts. Nevertheless, this does not absolve the government from the responsibility of evolving a consensus on its own. At a time when the whole country is suffering from an acute shortage of power and protesting against high tariff, it should not be too difficult to convince the dissenting elements about the dams usefulness. Power generating units installed at Kalabagh would have provided us with enough electricity to match the current shortfall, or at least reduced the rigours of the current loadsheddings impact. It would generate electricity at a cheap rate of Rs 0.50 per unit. Apart from that, the dams big reservoir would have ensured a smooth flow of water for agriculture and other uses in the country. According to a press report, Kalabagh Dam is being abandoned under pressure of the IMF and the World Bank even though engineering experts in the country are firmly of the view that it is the most feasible project. At the same time, India is feverishly engaged in building as many as 15 dams in Held Kashmir. Meanwhile, while lamenting that Kalabagh Dam has fallen victim to political manoeuvring, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has proposed that the subject of power generation should be delegated to the provinces to overcome the current shortages. Details of his proposal have not been spelled out but, hopefully, the energy conference he intends convening this month at Lahore would thrash out the issue. The power shortage, which Ch Mukhtar said would take three to four years to reduce, is casting its shadows over almost every sector of life: ruined economy, shelved development projects, lost jobs, poverty spreading its tentacles, and what not. The suffering public would welcome nothing better than immediate relief and are looking up to their leadership to put aside their parochial considerations and undertake projects that serve the national interest, projects giving relief in the short, medium and long terms.