Tag Archives: energy

Pakistan’s climate change solution

Pakistan solar panels

Despite being a low emitter of greenhouse gases, Pakistan faces particular risk from the threat of global climate change. In a recent column for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, Michael Kugelman noted several of the devastating effects that Pakistan has suffered as the result of global climate change – historic flooding in Sindh destroyed not only thousands of lives, but is estimated to have caused $40 billion in damage to critical infrastructure; an avalanche on the Siachen glacier earlier this year took the lives of 124 Pakistani soldiers and 11 civilians. But Pakistanis are a resilient people who have persevered in spite of immense challenges. And though Pakistan is not responsible for global climate change, they are doing much to find a solution.

In his column, Mr. Kugelman noted a few of the steps that Pakistan has taken to address the threat of global climate change – the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Action Plan as well as programmes to promote tree planting and storm water harvesting. Each of these plays an important role in reducing the impact of climate change, but Pakistan is doing much more.

A feasibility study is underway for extensive rehabilitation of the Renala Hydel Power Station to improve its efficiency, and Pakistan is rehabilitating the Nara canal in Sindh. Working in partnership with USAID, Pakistan is rehabilitating the Tarbela Dam and the Jamshoro Power Station, and constructing the Satpara Dam and an adjacent canal system that will provide improved irrigation and serve as a significant source of drinking water for the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In April, the government of Pakistan elevated the issue of climate change to a cabinet level portfolio by creating the Ministry of Climate Change to oversee research and implementation of projects to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce the risks to the region, and most importantly to the Pakistani people.

The government of Pakistan also recently launched the Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from Glacier Lake Outburst Floods project in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme to improve both human and technical capacity to address immediate risks for those vulnerable to future flooding. In May, the government initiated the Punjab Environmental Protection Council, improving environmental oversight and increasing fines on polluters.

While Pakistan repairs and rehabilitates existing infrastructure, they are also developing the technology of tomorrow. Though some nations continue to emphasize development of fossil fuels, Pakistan is a leader in the field of developing clean and renewable alternative energy sources. In 2010, President Zardari told the Ministry of Water and Power that “The energy crisis has forced upon a vigorous search for out of box, imaginative and bold solutions.”

Since then, the Ministry’s Alternative Energy Development Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China for wind power and solar energy projects in Pakistan of worth approximately $6.5 billion. The Chief Minister of Sindh hosted representatives of China’s United Energy Group for a ceremony to commemorate a new cooperative project that will build a 150 Megawatt wind power project in Thatta and Jamshoro.

Solar power, too, is taking off in Pakistan. Thanks to the government’s Rural Electrification Programme, thousands of homes in 49 villages in Sindh are powered by solar energy, and funds have been approved to expand solar electrification projects to hundreds of villages in Balochistan. This week, the government of Punjab announced another own program to provide solar and biogas units to the poor and small farmers.

Pakistan’s work to repair and rehabilitate existing infrastructure as well as to develop innovative alternative energy projects is being carried out in every province, and in every sector of the economy. The cutting edge research and development taking place in Pakistan can help solve one of the world’s most pressing issues, and the success of joint US-Pakistan energy projects also provides a glimpse into what we can achieve when we work together.

“Saathi”

Diamer Bhasha DamYesterday’s post about the successful Pakistani operation that captured three top al Qaeda figures with the help of American intelligence was meant to highlight how, working together, US and Pakistan are more effective in fighting terrorists than trying working alone. Mosharraf Zaidi, a Pakistani columnist and policy adviser, responded with one word: “Saathi”.

“Saathi” is an Urdu word which means “partners” or “friends.” It also happens to be the name of Pakistan’s most popular brand of condoms. Zaidi’s comment was more than clever wordplay, though – it was a warning that American officials would do well to heed.

There’s a popular saying that the US treats Pakistani like a condom (in more polite recitations, Kleenex is substituted) – use it when you need it, then throw it away. The most commonly cited evidence is America’s withdrawal from engagement with Pakistan after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in the 1980s. Pakistan expected the US to continue its policy of looking the other way on their nuclear program and providing aid and assistance to repair damage done during the Afghan war. Instead, in 1990, the US cut aid to Pakistan citing the 1985 Pressler Amendment which required the president to certify that Pakistan did not have a nuclear weapon.

Today, Pakistan is believed to control the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. The Pressler Amendment, for all its intentions, did nothing to prevent this reality. What it did do was convince many Pakistani officials that the US is an unreliable partner. With troop drawdowns in Afghanistan scheduled over the next few years, many Pakistani officials are having a feeling of ‘deja vu all over again.’

American officials including Ambassadors Marc Grossman and Cameron Munter have met with the Pakistani leadership to convey their assurance that past mistakes will not be repeated, and that the US will not abandon Pakistan to fight against militant groups alone. But more can, and should be done to assure Pakistan of American intentions.

One way the US can provide this assurance is through making long term investments in Pakistan’s civilian infrastructure. A recent report in The Guardian (UK), notes that the US is considering providing financial support for the $12 billion Diamer Bhasha dam, which would provide 4,500MW of additional green energy, and go far to solving Pakistan’s crippling energy crisis. Mosharraf Zaidi told The Guardian that this is just the type of project the US should be investing in.

“Diamer Bhasha would be tremendously good for Pakistan and would show that the US is invested in a long-term relationship with Pakistan, no matter how bad things look today.”

Improving Pakistan’s energy capacity is about more than just keeping the lights on. According to the LA Times, Pakistan’s chronic electricity shortages are bleeding the country of economic opportunities. In a nation of 180 million where half the population is under 22 and and a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, diminishing economic opportunities fuel political frustration and, in turn, instability – something no amount of military aid can fix, but one hydroelectric dam can.

This week’s statement by Pakistan’s military is an olive branch extended, once again, to their American counterparts. It’s an opportunity US officials should be loath to pass up. Significant financial support for the Diamer Bhasha dam would not only go far towards repairing America’s reputation in Pakistan, it would do so the right way – by demonstrating a sincere desire to help Pakistanis improve their own situation. Saathi. Partners, not patrons.

Time For A New Approach to US-Pakistan Relations

Zalmay Khalilzad

A response to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post

US-Pakistan relations may not be broken, but they’re certainly strained. Events in recent months have reinforced fears on both sides, and leaders in both countries are under increasing pressure from their respective publics to abandon each other. It’s clear that a new approach to US-Pakistan relations is needed. Unfortunately, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post reflects a mindset steeped in past thinking, and his recommendations represent an old and dis-proven approach

What drives Pakistan?

Amb. Khalilzad offers two theories for why Pakistan’s military might support militant groups: Either they are trying to prolong the Afghan war in order to extort US aid, or they are trying to conquer Central Asia. This represents not only a false dilemma, but a fundamentally silly one.

The Kerry-Lugar-Burman bill (KLB) provides for $1.5 billion in economic aid annually for five years. While this aid is valuable, it represents about 0.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Moreover, in the first year of KLB, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only $179.5 million was actually disbursed. Even if it were possible to buy Pakistan’s cooperation, this amount of foreign aid is simply insufficient to do so.

The alternate theory offered – that Islamabad has a secret “ambitious plan to consolidate regional hegemony in Central Asia” – is equally nonsensical. With China and India sitting on its doorstep, Pakistan’s strategic priority is not to expand its influence across Asia, it’s to defend its own sovereignty. If Pakistan seeks influence in Kabul, it is not as a means of expanding its influence to Tashkent, it’s as as means of preserving it’s control of Lahore which sits precariously on the border with India.

So why might some in Pakistan’s military support the Afghan Taliban and militant groups like the Haqqani network? The same reason that they – and the US – supported these groups in the 1980s: they keep other people out. During the Cold War, the US supported the Taliban as a way of fighting Soviet influence in Kabul. Similarly, some security strategists in Pakistan today see the Taliban as a way of fighting Indian influence and preventing the nation from being boxed in by hostile neighbors.

What drives Pakistan is neither banditry nor ambition – it’s a basic desire for self-preservation. While some individuals in Pakistan may have ideological or religious affinity for the Taliban, this does not represent an official position any more than the existence of radicals in the US represent any official positions on the part of the US.

This is why it is disappointing that Amb. Khalilzad continually references “Pakistani support” for militant groups. By suggesting there is some state policy in support of these groups, the Ambassador ignores the incredible sacrifices that Pakistanis have made in the fight against militancy and extremism including the lives of over 35,000 Pakistani citizens.

Carrots and Sticks, re-revisited

Ambassador Khalilzad proposes using aid along with the promise to facilitate trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. In other words, what we’re already doing. But if these carrots are not sufficient to change Pakistan’s strategic outlook now, why would they be tomorrow?

The fact is that Pakistan seeks to reduce its reliance on aid, not prolong or deepen its dependency on foreign donors. We know this because it has been stated repeatedly by Pakistan’s President, Asif Zardari, as well as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.

And the the Government of Pakistan has been doing more than just talking about improving its domestic economy. Pakistan announced this week that it has beat tax collection targets, bringing its tax-to-GDP ration to 9.2 percent, up from 8.9 percent a year ago. This demonstrates that the Government of Pakistan is making serious efforts to get its books in order, despite significant political obstacles – something Washington may want to eye with more sympathy as American lawmakers struggle to create consensus on their own economic policy.

Rather than continuing attempts to use economic and military aid as leverage, the US would be better advised to listen to Pakistan’s leadership and seriously discuss the possibility of improved trade deals such as Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), lower textile tariffs, and investment in energy production and delivery to improve capacity in Pakistan’s domestic industry.

Similarly, the “sticks” proposed by Amb. Khalilzad amount to little more than cutting aid to Pakistan – a strategy that will only further entrench anti-democratic forces in Pakistan and reinforce suspicions that the US is a less reliable ally than Taliban militants. Again, we don’t have to assume this to be the case. We can look to the outcome of America’s policy of disengagement in the 1990s as a response to Pakistan’s nuclear program – a nuclearized Pakistan suspicious of US motives and interests.

Strengthening Civil Society

Despite his other errors, Amb. Khalilzad gets one thing right: “Ultimately, only the Pakistani people and a new generation of civilian leadership can rein in the country’s military leaders.” Whatever US interests in South Asia, the future of Pakistan will be defined by Pakistanis themselves. If the US wants to see a free and prosperous Pakistan, the only way forward is to invest in the success of Pakistan’s civil society.

That means dealing with the civilian political leadership, even when it might seem more efficient to deal directly with the military; it means focusing aid and investment on sustainable ways of improving the lives of ordinary Pakistanis; and it means listening to Pakistanis about their own priorities, rather than trying to convince them to prioritize American interests. Above all, if we are going to see a peaceful and stable Pakistan, the US must move beyond the strategies of the past and engage Pakistan as a partner, not a patron.

Joel Brinkley's Column a Gross Misrepresentation of Pakistan

Joel BrinkleyDespite being a long-time friend and a key ally in the war on terror, it is – sadly – still not difficult to find journalists writing uninformed and misrepresentative columns about the country. Some are merely the result of a rush to deadline, others, like Joel Brinkley’s column in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, appear to be little more than an ill-conceived attempt to get attention. Whatever his motivation, Joel Brinkley’s column betrays a serious lack of understanding of an important American ally.

Brinkley’s ire with Pakistan appears to have been raised when the nation signed an agreement to run a natural gas pipeline from Iran. While certainly not an ideal situation for American foreign policy in the region, it’s arguable that Pakistan did not have much choice. Staring down an energy crisis that threatens to destabilize the democratic regime, the government of Pakistan had to act quickly. Faced with the choice of irritating some in the US or failing their citizens and sinking the nation into anarchy, the government of Pakistan chose the lesser of two evils.

This was hardly, as Joel Brinkley hyperventilates, Pakistan “stabbing us in the back.” I’m certain that President Obama’s envoy, David Lipton, told the Pakistani government in good faith that we would try to find some alternative source of fuel, but in a nation facing 12-hour power outages, time is not money – it’s stability. That Iran could deliver “742 million cubic feet of natural gas every day” surely forced what was a difficult decision.

We must also keep in mind Iran’s geographic proximity to Pakistan (the two nations share a border) and how this effects Pakistan’s security considerations. Pakistan already has tense relations with India to their East and suffer devastating attacks from jihadi groups that cross over from the Afghanistan border on their West. Surely some part of the Iranian natural gas pipeline deal was informed by a desire to keep Iran from supporting militant networks, potentially requiring a third defensive position for Pakistan’s already over-taxed military.

While this may be inconvenient for American foreign policy, Brinkley’s response that “Pakistan seems to believe it is ‘not bound’ to do anything it finds inconvenient or uncomfortable” is laughably ironic. For starters, as a sovereign nation, Pakistan is not bound do do anything at all, despite whether or not we find their choices inconvenient or uncomfortable (which seems to be Brinkley’s real complaint).

Pakistan has been a close and key ally in the fight against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other jihadi groups in South Asia – a position that has resulted in thousands of Pakistani civilian and military casualties.

It is callous, insulting, and willfully misinformed to suggest that Pakistan is unwilling to do anything it finds “inconvenient or uncomfortable” when it is involved in daily military cooperation in support of US efforts to defeat jihadi militants in neighboring Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s tribal regions. Surely this meets Brinkley’s requirements for “inconvenient and uncomfortable.”

Furthermore, Brinkley’s allegation that “Right now, Pakistan is sidling up to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban leader who runs a militant network, partners of al Qaeda, that is responsible for a significant part of the insurgency in Afghanistan” is both misleading and woefully incorrect.

The US military, in close cooperation with Pakistani security agencies, has launched Predator drone attacks responsible for eliminating high-level al Qaeda and Taliban leaders – including Mohammed Haqqani – in Dande Darpa Khel village, the Haqqani group’s base in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province.

The strike was apparently aimed at Sirajuddin who is the head of the Haqqani network, which has been responsible for some recent attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He wasn’t in the area at the time of the attack, security officials said.

The death of Mohammed Haqqani, who was also actively involved in the Afghan insurgency, comes as a blow to the insurgent group and reinforces the effectiveness of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.

In the past year, Predator drones attacks have taken out many top al Qaeda and Taliban figures. Although the U.S. attacks have been criticized by some Pakistani officials as infringing on the country’s sovereignty, they are carried out with the collaboration of Pakistani security agencies.

None of this would be possible without the cooperation of Pakistan’s military and civilian democratic government – both of which have dramatically shifted from past policies of looking to jihadi groups for “strategic depth” against a potential conflict with India – a shift made possible as Pakistan has come to trust that the US itself has shifted from short-term strategies in the region to a long-term commitment to ensuring Pakistan’s security.

Pakistan’s strategic shift and its vital contribution to the war effort were recognized by Gen. Petraeus earlier this year.

The U.S. military commander who oversees the Afghanistan war said today that Pakistan’s arrest of several Taliban leaders reflected an “evolution” in how the country’s powerful military perceived militants who it once supported.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has also praised Pakistan’s anti-terror effort and criticized people like Joel Brinkley for not appreciating the “extraordinary” effort of Pakistan’s military and democratic government.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has said that Pakistan does not get enough credit for its role in the war against extremists although some of its achievements were ‘pretty extraordinary’.

‘Too many people eagerly and easily criticise Pakistan for what they haven’t done, and when I go to Swat and look at what they did there on the military side I think it’s pretty extraordinary,’ said the US military chief while talking to journalists on Sunday.

Misinformed and misleading journalism like Joel Brinkley’s column do more than just annoy. This type of hysterical misinformation is readily repackaged and redistributed by jihadist sympathizers who seek to drive a wedge between Pakistan and the US. To borrow a phrase from Joel Brinkley, while Pakistan works closely with our military to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban, behind our backs journalists like Joel Brinkley are undermining the American war effort in Afghanistan.

While it is unfortunate that Pakistan finds itself in a position in which it believes it is in their interest to negotiate a natural gas agreement with Iran, they remain a strong ally to the United States and a key partner in the war on terror. This cannot be overlooked. Rather than repeating past mistakes and treating Pakistan as a client state, we should respect their domestic energy situation and work to find realistic and timely policy solutions that will continue to support Pakistan’s democratization and important membership in the world community. Petty insults from ill-informed journalists do not help.

The Road to Peace

NPR’s Steve Inskeep has been reporting from the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient road that traverses South Asia. On Friday, he checked in from Islamabad and what he reported about Pakistanis conversations about Faisal Shahzad sheds important light on the road to peace in Pakistan.

What Inskeep heard actually surprised him – how little most Pakistanis were talking about Faisal Shahzad. This is not to say that Pakistanis are not concerned with terrorism – far from it. Since the Times Square incident, editorial boards and columnists in Pakistan’s media have written extensively about the urgent need to eradicate the terror networks in their country.

But religious extremism is not Pakistan’s only problem. Young and middle class Pakistanis – the very people who are must be engaged to effect sustainable change in the country – are beset by a host of problems other than terrorism.
Economic inflation, a lack of foreign investment to provide expanded employment opportunities, and scheduled blackouts due to a lack of energy capacity all provide daily interruptions to young people’s lives.

Still, each of these issues can be traced back to terrorism. Pakistan is besieged by almost daily attacks from groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the group that is suspected of having provided support to Faisal Shahzad. Over the past two years, more than 3,000 Pakistanis have been murdered by these groups.

Pakistan’s government and military have greatly increased their efforts to fight these terrorists, gaining high praise from US Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

McChrystal said fighting terrorism within its own borders was important for Pakistan and the US, and important for partnership between the two states. General David Petraeus, Commander of US Central Command, also said the Pakistani military had gone after the Taliban effectively last year in its northwest territories. “It’s important to give Pakistan credit for what it has done,” he said in his key note address to the 2010 Joint War fighting Conference in Virginia.

But these efforts have left Pakistan’s government with limited resources to address issues not directly related to security. Recognizing this, the US government tripled non-military aid to Pakistan.

“The United States is firmly committed to the future that the Pakistani people deserve — a future that will advance our common security and prosperity,” Obama said. “Just as we will help Pakistan strengthen the capacity that it needs to root out violent extremists, we are also committed to working … to help Pakistan improve the basic services that its people depend upon — schools, roads and hospitals.”

Talking to people in Islamabad, NPR’s Steve Inskeep found that people often wanted him to send a message back to the US – that Pakistanis are by far good, peace loving people who only are struggling against difficult odds.

The road to peace is before us. By supporting the people of Pakistan and their struggle for democracy and justice, we help clear the obstacles on that road that provide cover for militant extremists. When we clear the path towards democracy by providing essential non-military support, we empower the people of Pakistan to better their situation, and we in turn secure our own.