AFTER a rather longish period, during which Mian Shahbaz Sharif had been shying away from talking about the Kalabagh Dam, he has at last realised the paramount necessity of building it. While on a visit to Sialkot on Tuesday, he rightly visualised the PPP going down in history if it were to undertake its construction. The Punjab Chief Minister also pointed to the utter ruin that loadshedding has caused to the economy as a whole, and the hydel power station at Kalabagh would go a long way in eliminating it. Kalabagh is a natural site for a big reservoir that can not only supply a regular, measured flow of water, round the year, for our starving agriculture as well as industrial and domestic consumption, but also generate a big chunk of electric power nearly equal to the shortfall the country has been experiencing for the past two years. A dam at Kalabagh would be rare in the sense that it would virtually last forever and not get filled up, which is the fate of most dams, since it would be receiving silt-free, 'filtered water. And the benefits - storage of 7.6 million acre feet of water to be released on demand and power generation capacity of 3,600MW when fully developed - would continue to accrue endlessly and to all the provinces. In that sense it would be the cheapest such structure in the country, needing only periodic maintenance to operate. It is common experience that, confronted with a crisis posing an existential threat, nations as well as individuals readily eschew their differences and sit together to work out a plan of action to overcome it; for common cause is a powerful impetus for unity, not only among humans but also the rest of the animal kingdom. Thus, at a time of acute shortage of water and power - both vital inputs of the economy and, indeed, life - such as Pakistan is facing at the moment, it is logical to assume that our leadership should be seriously thinking of finding ways and means to meet the challenge. But, sadly, the water shortage has been met with a deathly silence, and even a countrywide outcry against the theft of Pakistans share of water by India has not jolted it out of deep slumber. On the electricity shortfall front, the government has resorted to a short-term solution in the form of rental power projects, which would be expensive to install and highly costly to consumers, but will help line the pockets of certain powerful individuals and their cronies. May we hope that the dissenting parties respond to the call of Mian Shahbaz positively and soon a national consensus emerges on undertaking the construction of Kalabagh Dam whose feasibility is ready in all respects? The present critical juncture in the history of Pakistan, it bears stressing, needs a national outlook to succeed. In Kalabaghs case, local and regional interests are fully taken care of, contrary to the propaganda of certain biased groups.