Though the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has approved in principle that the burden of loadshedding be shared by all the provinces by distributing the available electricity in an equitable manner, the people in Punjab should keep their fingers crossed. For, twice earlier, the energy conferences convened by former Prime Minister Gilani at Islamabad and Lahore had come to the same conclusion, but instead, the province continued to suffer far more grievously than others. To quote Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab continued to receive “step motherly treatment”. The CCI that met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at Islamabad on Wednesday passed a resolution presented by Mian Shahbaz calling for “equitable distribution of electricity” to “strengthen the federation and promote solidarity among the people of the country”.

The meeting decided to constitute a nine-member committee to work out the modalities of equitable distribution. It comprises the Minister of Water and Power, the Chief Secretaries and technical experts of the federating units. Hopefully, the committee would devise a method that is acceptable to all concerned and is able to remove Punjab’s grievances which is home to more than half of Pakistan’s population. It houses a sizeable number of varied types of industries, including those forced out of Karachi by the threat to life and property posed by constant rioting and pillage. Punjab is considered the breadbasket of the country which also provides jobs to a big chunk of labour on agriculture. These realities would, one hopes, convince the committee members that neglecting its requirements of energy would prove disastrous for the country’s economy. Strongly protesting at the “uneven distribution” of power, the Punjab Chief Minister, therefore, drew attention to the loss to economy as a result. He also pointed to the sacrifices made by the province to promote solidarity among the different federating units, in particular the giving away of Rs 11 billion of its share in the NFC.

These efforts to remove a genuine grouse apart, one wonders why the CCI did not consider any measure to improve the power supply situation, both in the short and the long terms. This was a most appropriate occasion for Mian Shahbaz to reactivate the ideal project of Kalabagh Dam that could go a long way towards meeting the country’s power needs and making it available at much cheaper rates as well as providing water for various purposes. That project is, at the moment, lost in the maze of controversy reflecting narrow political bickering to the tremendous damage of national interests. The vehement exposition of the dam by no less an expert than former Wapda Chairman Shamsul Mulk for the benefit of national economy, progress and prosperity should be enough to calm dissenting voices. With his home in Mansehra, he assures that the dam would not adversely affect the city and that should set at rest the propaganda that it would drown it. The far-reaching havoc that the loadshedding is causing to life should be enough to jolt the rulers into seeing the best way of getting out of the crisis.