Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who paid a visit to the site of Thar coal project on Thursday, observed that when fully exploited the coal reserves there would bring about a revolutionary change in the country, signalling progress and prosperity. Appreciating the work of Dr Samar Mubarakmand, who he said was not drawing any salary, and his team, Mr Ashraf said that one site alone had the potential of producing two billion barrels of diesel, while other sites also showed promise. Besides, he said that it could generate electricity and produce gas, urea fertilizer and diesel, adding that three companies were already working on the project and once the project started yielding results, investors from different parts of the world would flock to the region. According to one report a sum of Rs 900 million has been secured for the purpose of coal gasification. The Prime Minster also announced a grant of Rs 200 million for the electrification of the surrounding villages.

However, before dreaming about converting Pakistan into a land of milk and honey through this project and pouring into it the huge investment it calls for, it would be worthwhile assembling a team of world class experts to do a feasibility study, covering technical as well as financial aspects. For, the prevailing opinion at present has never been presented in enough detail as cost and benefit in financial terms, nor have the geographic concerns of experts over the topography of the region been alleviated. Interestingly, Dr Mubarakmand’s has been the lone voice in the country advocating the idea, with Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan bitterly opposing it and other experts sceptical about it turning into a reality.

No doubt, Pakistan’s burgeoning need for electricity stipulates the utilisation of all available resources. But considering the crippling impact of loadshedding on life in general and the countrywide hue and cry it provokes, the revelation of the government’s own top bureaucrat concerned with the subject that it was not serious about overcoming the shortage is greatly upsetting. Secretary Water and Power Zafar Mehmood made no bones about saying before the Public Accounts Committee that the government had neither any specific plan to deal with the crisis, nor was any technology to eliminate or reduce the line losses available in the country. It, indeed, constitutes a most damaging indictment of government’s failing on an issue of utmost importance. Another failing, of equally great proportions, is the neglect of the Kalabagh Dam project, a dam that has been acclaimed arguably the most suitable to build by world authorities. There is, perhaps, no better time and no greater compelling reason than the yawning gap between supply and demand to go ahead with the construction of the dam that would markedly raise the power generation capacity of the country. Thar Coal deserves immediate and serious observation for these reasons, but it seems just as the Secretary Water and Power has observed, that any serious and pragmatic planning is beyond the government, which is an expert at selling nightmares in the shape of dreams.