By now it should be apparent to even morons that the Chief Justice is biased in favor of Imran Khan. His latest decision proves it. The victor (also known as Taliban Khan and U-turn Khan) himself said in his victory speech that he would not oppose any move to recount the votes in any constituency that the opposition wanted. He won NA-131 (Lahore) by a very narrow margin (680 votes) against Saad Rafiq. However, when the Lahore High Court ordered the Election Commission to recount the votes, Imran Khan made a U-turn and appealed to the Supreme Court to stop the recount. To those who know the law, the chief justice should have ordered the recount, considering that the great Khan had himself promised that he would never object if anyone requested it. But no, the Chief Justice stopped the  recount, saying that Khan's statement was merely a political statement which should not be taken seriously. Now this only makes a mockery of our judiciary. How can the common man expect justice from such a court?

It should be remembered that this is the same man who recently told Nawaz Sharif's lawyer to make a donation of a million rupees to his Diamer Bhasha dam fund if he wanted the case to be adjourned. This should have been enough for this judge to be disqualified. If this becomes the norm, a rapist or killer can be asked to donate a similar amount to get acquitted. I would like to know the criteria for appointment of our judges. How did this man become a judge in the first place?

I used to think that only Pakistanis and Indians indulge in tax evasion. Then I met a man from one of the Scandinavian countries who told me that some people in his country hate paying taxes and don't miss any opportunity to cheat the government. I know many Pakistanis who dole out more than a million every year to charity, but refuse to pay their due share of taxes. The two and a half percent "zakat" or wealth tax ordained by Islam is sacred for most Muslims, yet they will do their utmost to avoid paying government taxes. Some of our politicians don't even have a national tax number, leave alone pay taxes.
Perhaps one reason for this is the widely-held perception that most of our taxes are siphoned away into foreign bank accounts, or used to sustain the lavish lifestyles of Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. Besides this, there are certain segments of the population which are exempted from payment of taxes, like agriculturists, civil servants and army personnel.
I once tried to persuade a distant relative to get his business (a small retail shop) registered with the tax department. "You must be crazy," he said when I told him I had registered myself and my wife and we were paying taxes regularly. He said that once a Pakistani is registered as a tax payer, the tax hounds will appear every month to extract bribes from him. "You don't have to bribe anyone if you don't cheat on taxes", I said to him. "You can't survive if you pay tax, and if you don't steal electricity and gas," he said.
I don't think the incoming government of Imran Khan will be successful in recovering more taxes than the previous governments. Imran Khan himself pays only  Rs. 8,000 every year as income tax, despite living in a huge palatial mansion and having a big staff for its maintenance. I wonder if he will give up his lavish lifestyle after he becomes the prime minster next week. I doubt it, in fact I won't be surprised if he turns out to be worse than his predecessors. 

Dams without water
This refers to the editorial ‘The dam issue’ (Aug 2). There was one aspect that wasn’t mentioned in the editorial: there is a pressing shortage of water to fill dams with. With no rains and depleting glaciers, we won’t have enough water in the future.

I suggest that we import water from friendly countries in huge "containers". This water can then be transported to the dams. I request Imran Khan to seriously consider this challenge.

Shakir Lakhani
The News, August 4, 2018

I've never liked the present Chief Justice of Pakistan (Saqib Nisar). There are times when I wonder how he ever got appointed as a judge, leave alone getting the chief justice's job. Instead of doing something to clear the backlog of about two million pending cases in the country's courts, the man went all out to promote the construction of the controversial Kalabagh Dam. When he realized that only his home province supported the measure, he took up the issue of building two other dams, which will require at least 20 billion dollars and more than ten years to complete. He even set up a fund for this purpose, but became silent when he saw there was not much support from the general public.

Suddenly, without any cause, the man is now deeply concerned about how women dress when they appear on TV programs, as if the country did not face any other problems. I have the feeling that the man is trying to project himself as a kind of guru or something. He is obviously thinking of standing for president after he retires, and as he will have to wait another two years, he may try to persuade the new "savior" of the country (Imran Khan) to waive this condition so he can become the next president of the country.

Come to think of it, I won't be surprised if Her Holiness (Imran Khan's wife) has something to do with the CJP's sudden realization that Islam does not allow Muslim women to show any skin in public. Imran, the former playboy, is now a committed fundamentalist, and a few days back he even said something against feminists. Knowing that he will fail in solving the nation's problems, I won't be surprised if he too blames his failure on what the CJP calls "inappropriate clothing" of our TV stars.

With Imran Khan winning the election, but not with an outright majority, we are in for a long drawn-out battle in Pakistan. The elections appear to have been massively rigged, so much so that almost all those who lost will reject the results. I foresee a repeat of 1977, which ended with Bhutto being hanged. I hope Imran Khan will not use force against his political opponents, but knowing the mindset of our politicians, I won't be surprised if from day one he starts blaming others for his mistakes and uses the police to put down demonstrations against his government. 
I suppose we should be encouraged by his decision to cut down on expenses, like using the prime minister's house and the residences of all governors to generate money. He had made similar promises when his party won the elections in KP, like turning the chief minister's house into a university, but of course that didn't happen, so we can expect nothing will happen this time as well. If he really wants to live like the poor people do, he should sell his huge mansion and live in a small flat with his wife. But that too wouldn't appeal to him. 
He also talked about improving relations with India, which must have caused alarm in the minds of those whose livelihoods depend on having a permanent enemy (whom they can blame for everything that is wrong in the country). Whatever he does, the country's situation is not expected to improve any time soon.

It's been  only forty five days since the caretaker government took over the reins of the country, and in this short period the rupee has been devalued twice, losing 14 % of its value. If things continue like this, we'll see the dollar shooting up to Rs. 150 or even more by the time the next elected government is formed (assuming elections take place on July 25). So why is Imran Khan shouting at the top of his voice that the government of Nawaz Sharif is responsible for this massive devaluation? At least the outgoing government had a firm control over its fiscal policies. Are the caretakers allowed to devalue the rupee in this manner? Why is the Chief Justice not taking notice? If he can intervene to reduce prices of petroleum products, why can't he ask the government to take the rupee back to its former value of Rs. 110 to the dollar. I'm sure he knows that with every devaluation, prices of essential items will rise, until people start thinking seriously about committing suicide.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan suddenly took note of the fact that there is a serious water shortage in the country and asked why this was so. One of his advisors (probably someone with an IQ of less than 40) told him that this was because three provinces had opposed the construction of the Kalabagh Dam (where most feudals of Punjab had purchased land ten years ago when there were strong rumours that building the dam had been approved by the World Bank). The CJP has apparently not heard of global warming and the receding of glaciers which are meant to provide water for our rivers. He has also not observed that there have been practically no rains this year, due to which our all our dams are empty.

Now if there is one thing the CJP should not do is what others are supposed to do. He should of course be much concerned that there are millions of cases pending before the courts, cases involving those who died long ago and whose heirs are also due to die any day. But no, the man has to poke his nose into affairs which should not concern him. He has visited hospitals throughout the country, he got petrol prices reduced (thereby depriving the national exchequer of billions in taxes), and now he is doing everything he can to build dams, thinking that it is child's play, and also not considering the fact that due to global warming, there is no water in our rivers.

So, when he saw that there was strenuous opposition to Kalabagh dam, he started to collect funds for two dams, the foundation stone of one of which (Bhasha dam) was laid six years back and for which land has not yet been acquired. Thinking that collection of funds for the construction of the two dams would be completed in a matter of a few months, he asked everyone within earshot to donate money for the purpose. He must have been shocked at the poor response. At this rate, the funds will take at least 200 years to be collected. He is now talking of increasing water prices, as if the people were not heavily taxed already. So, if anyone reading this knows the CJP, will he or she tell him to arrange for the import of water to be filled in the dams (because we'll have very little rains in future and our glaciers have receded).

Be willing to save
This refers to the editorial ‘Perilous waters’ (July 2). Pakistan’s problem is not the lack of water, but the sheer waste of water. According to experts, Pakistan, at present, has more than enough water for its needs. By adopting water conservation policies and using drip irrigation, the country can increase agricultural production manifold. It should be noted that even in developing countries, only 1,500 litres of water is required to produce a kilo of sugar, but Pakistan uses 7,000 litres for this purpose. Similarly, Pakistani farmers use twice the amount of water in rice production compared to other countries’. Just by reducing wastage, we can have more water for irrigation. And in years of drought, we can adopt cloud seeding to produce rain – a practice that is common in 52 countries across the world. All it requires is thinking out of the box and the will to save.
Shakir Lakhani
The News, July 4, 2018

When promises become lies
PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari’s convoy was pelted with stones by residents who were protesting against the lack of water and basic facilities in the area. Typically, the PPP dismissed the protests as attempts by rival parties to thwart its influence.
However, Bilawal should reflect deeply on what exactly his party has done for Lyari (and Sindh, for that matter). Ten years of constant misrule by the PPP has proved that we shouldn’t be surprised if the party is shown the door in the forthcoming elections.

Shakir Lakhani
The News, July 3, 2018

Why Kalabagh Dam is not the answer to our water woes

By Shakir Lakhani, June 25, 2018

 A Pakistani family looks at the Rawal dam spill way during the Eid holidays in Islamabad on August 10, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

 A few days back, my views on the futility of Kalabagh Dam published in a national daily evoked a very strong and hostile reaction from many people. I had posed a simple and pertinent question:

“If, as is evident, Pakistan will have very little water in future, what will we fill Kalabagh Dam with?”
Some people said Pakistan will have enough water forever, while others called me an enemy agent. Before delving deeper into why the dam should not be constructed, I would like to share my own experience of water consumption.
Up until 10 years back, I had no idea how much water my family was using, nor was I bothered when I saw it being wasted. This was because the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) charges domestic consumers a fixed amount every month, irrespective of consumption, based upon the floor area of each house. So a large house owner has to pay much more than a small apartment owner, even if only two people live in the large house and the small house has 10 occupants.
However, when I moved into my present apartment (where a meter records water consumption), I found that on an average, each member of my family was consuming 50 gallons daily (including water used for bathing and washing clothes and dishes). During the hot summer months, my water bill shoots up to Rs15,000 a month. This is because water is either obtained from tankers or from a reverse-osmosis plant set up near my apartment block to supply water to 720 apartments.
So, when I read about Pakistan running out of water in the next few years due to receding glaciers and highly reduced rain due to global warming, as well as the diversion of our water by India, I thought it would be good if our people could be compelled to save water. One way of doing that would of course be to make people pay for actual consumption, rather than recover a fixed amount based on the space occupied by their houses. Of course, most of the water of our rivers is consumed for agriculture, so it is essential to train farmers to reduce wastage of water.
A lot of people argue that Kalabagh Dam is the answer to all our water-related problems. My arguments against building it stem from many statistics and examples available to me. It has been known for a long time that huge dams cause great environmental damage, besides being very expensive and construction requiring a very long time. For example, even though the foundation stone of the $11 billion Diamer Bhasha Dam was laid in 2011, but construction has not yet started.
Besides contributing to global warming, dams have resulted in the decimation of fish species, displacement of people, desertification of areas near the coast, and changing the ecology of the planet by trapping sediment which is needed by deltas to support vegetation. The intrusion of the sea and destruction of agricultural land in lower Sindh is a direct result of dams and hydropower projects upstream.
According to International Rivers:
“The livelihoods of many millions of people also suffer because of the downstream effects of dams: the loss of fisheries, contaminated water, decreased amounts of water and a reduction in the fertility of farmlands and forests due to the loss of natural fertilisers and irrigation in seasonal floods. Dams also spread waterborne diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis. Opponents also believe that the benefits of dams have frequently been deliberately exaggerated and that the services they provide could be provided by other more efficient and sustainable means.”
It should be obvious that another huge dam upstream would deal a death blow to Sindh.
One argument in favour of large dams is that hydropower is much cheaper than other conventional options available. But I’d like to argue that the cost of electricity from solar cells has reduced considerably in recent years and is expected to be lower in future and this could be used instead. Moreover, even though hydropower is very cheap, the opportunity cost of it is a lot higher.
“Hydropower should not be considered as clean power because of the destruction of river ecosystems and its many social impacts. Internationally, private investors in power projects are largely avoiding large dams and prefer to invest in cheaper and less risky gas-fired power plants.”
In fact, about 1,000 dams are being dismantled in the US to restore rivers to their original pristine condition.
Gradually, electricity from solar panels is becoming popular. In future, most houses, farms and factories will be able to produce virtually free electricity.
Instead of building the dam (which would alienate the people of three provinces and leave our children and grandchildren to pay the loan of billions plus interest), we should look at the wastage of water by our farmers. Worldwide, rice requires 2,500 litres of water to produce one kilogram, but in Pakistan, we use twice that amount of water. As for sugar, our farmers use 7,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of sugar, whereas in other countries only 1,500 litres of water is used to grow the same amount of sugar!
Not only is this a criminal wastage of water, sugar is one commodity which we should learn to use economically. It’s bad for health, it requires an immense amount of storage, and it is highly subsidised. It therefore has a negative impact on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); it actually makes the country poorer.
Instead of providing so much subsidy and other benefits for sugar production, the government should provide the same facilities for growth of valuable crops like canola, sunflower and other edible crops. Unfortunately, this seems to be a lost cause as a lot of politics is involved here. Most of our filthy rich politicians are sugar mill owners, who get bank loans written off and pay very little tax. They are, of course, able to do this because they are in the Parliament and they decide how much tax we should pay (while paying negligible amount of taxes themselves).
Moreover, our farmers should take up drip irrigation, which can raise production significantly using the same quantity of water. Israel is the pioneer in this field, and in India,it has been adopted successfully in many states, resulting in saving water for more irrigation.
Singapore, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries rely completely on sea water desalination plants for providing water for drinking and agriculture. Why not try this in Pakistan? Initially, sufficient water for Karachi and coastal areas can be produced by setting up large desalination plants. Later, such plants can be built to provide water for agriculture. The face of Sindh and Balochistan will be changed forever, providing livelihood and food for the poor and impoverished people.
Hence, those who are insisting on making Kalabagh Dam should consider that besides measures to reduce water wastage, there are cheaper alternatives available worldwide to produce electricity and water. The Kalabagh Dam will only leave a huge debt for future generations, besides doing irreversible damage to the environment.

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (