One wonders how President Asif Zardari believes that the access of Pakistani goods to the European market would help the country without adequate electricity supply to ensure cost effective production. He asked for the facility to enable him to rid Pakistan of the plague of terrorism during the course of a meeting with a European Parliament delegation that called on him at Islamabad on Wednesday. He is right in suggesting a connection between excess to market and an end to terrorism, but in itself terrorism is not just a byproduct of poverty. It os also the outgrowth of a fanatical approach to issues of life, whether in the domestic and social domains or in religious beliefs. Even if the remote possibility of success in making huge enough exports to turn Pakistan into a prosperous land is taken into consideration, mere wealth would not make us reach the desired goal. For, terrorism is not necessarily born only of poverty; the sense of injustice  and powerlessness and a mindset that does not permit of any other but one particular solution of a problem have generally been proven to be other factors. After all, those who perpetrated 9/11 were not poor. It is education that liberates the mind, purges it of harmful prejudices and accepts the reality of different approaches to life that could lay the ground for a terrorism-free existence that Mr Zardari is looking for. And the pity is that towards education the authorities are paying little attention.

Another stipulation underlying the President’s demand for access to the European market is the availability of exportable goods. That, under the prevailing situation, defies logic, with eight to 12 hours of loadshedding in the metropolitan towns and longer durations in the outlying areas where a sizeable number of small industrial units is also located. Pakistan’s main foreign exchange earner, the textile sector, has, instead of registering increase in exports in 2011-12, fallen short of the figure reached in the previous year. To be exact, its exports fell by 10.38 percent to $12.35 billion; total export target of $26 billion for 2011-12 fell to $23.64 billion. Reasons: prolonged power cuts and phenomenally high tariffs. Exporters fail to deliver their wares on time because of lack of adequate power supply and their products are edged out of competition because of high cost of production due mainly to costlier electricity charges. Besides, quite a few entrepreneurs have moved their units to countries like Bangladesh where the supply of electricity is regular as well as cheaper. A number are in the process of shifting. And there are no prospects of getting over the problem in the foreseeable future.

Time is fast reaching when we would not be able to export our agricultural products, like cotton, sugar or even fruit, as well; in fact, we are already importing several commodities like vegetables. Reason: dwindling availability of water and antiquated farming practices and facilities. Here again the government seems to be groping in the dark; raising small dams might fulfil local demand for water, but the country’s needs could only be catered for by large reservoirs like the multipurpose Kalabagh Dam that, unfortunately, has fallen prey to inter-provincial rivalries. Unless we rise above them and do something substantive, access to foreign market would not cut the Gordian knot of poverty.