Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fatal Attack On Pakistan Polio Team
One policeman has been shot dead and another wounded as they escorted a team conducting a polio vaccination campaign in northwestern Pakistan. Police officials said two men riding a motorbike opened fire on the two policemen on April 10 as the vaccination team visited the Parhoti neighborhood of the town of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The police were reportedly standing outside a home as the female polio workers were inside giving polio drops to children. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. In December, gunmen killed at least nine polio workers in separate attacks in different parts of Pakistan. Some Pakistani militants oppose the polio vaccination campaign, accusing health workers of acting as spies for the United States and claiming the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Pakistan: Long hot summers

It seems that acute energy shortages have become the fate of the nation and the country is rapidly slipping into the dark ages. Urban centres have endured a loadshedding of 18 hours per day and rural areas virtually remained without electricity after a series of crises hit the power sector over the past two days, with generation declining to below 7,000MW against a demand of 13,000MW. However, the ground reality was even worse than what the supply and demand data suggest. On paper, the demand and supply gap was 60 percent, but consumers in areas covered by the government utilities were getting only 20 percent of the required supply due to various reasons. For example, out of 7,000MW, about 700MW goes to the KESC, reducing the national supply by 10 percent to other areas. Supply also dropped to 4500MW after 25 percent of the electricity was lost by way of line losses, theft and transmission inefficiency. Exemptions given to hospitals, the VVIPs including Prime Minister's House and Presidency took away another 1500MW, leaving the net available electricity to the rest of the consumers at 3,000MW only. This was not all. Act of sabotage, disruption in oil supplies and lower water releases from Tarbela and Mangla were also sometime taking their toll. According to an official, "the power sector is on a clinical support system and another contingency can lead to total collapse." The most disturbing aspect is that while the country is facing a crisis situation, authorities seem to be least bothered by this critical condition. The previous government almost did nothing to improve the situation while the caretaker set-up apparently believes that administrative reshuffles are enough to take care of the power sector problems. The generation side is almost forgotten by all. The power sector at present appears to be in double-jeopardy. On the one hand, generation is dropping because of oil, gas and water shortages and other inefficiencies while terrorist attacks like the latest one near Peshawar are demoralising the staff and reducing its efficiency. This is in addition to power theft, line losses, etc. Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project which could be a ray of hope is still at an initial stage and embroiled in so many controversies that one could be almost sure of a more deepening crisis. Obviously, there seems to be no relief on the horizon, irrespective of the government likely to assume power after the elections. However, a beginning could be made by the new government by declaring a kind of state of emergency and devoting almost all the development resources towards the energy sector. Programmes like road building, and laptop distribution have to be abandoned in favour of electricity generation. Electricity theft has to be removed on a war-footing and transmission lines have to be guarded at all cost. If we begin to take such steps now, their impact would only be visible after a time lag of few years. Renewed efforts for hydro energy are also a must and foreign sources of funding have to be found for the purpose. If all these measures are not taken on a war-footing, the future of the country is indeed very bleak and the wrath of the people would be very severe. The incoming government would do a great service to the country if it realises the gravity of the situation and concentrates its energies and resources to tackle the electricity crisis immediately after assuming power. We believe that if electricity is made available adequately and law and order situation is improved, most of the problems of the economy would automatically be solved. These two problems have sapped the energies of the people completely and made them so despondent that they have lost confidence in the future of the country.

President Zardari directs for ensuring transparency in elections

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed the hope that provincial governments will rise to the expectations of the people in regard to approaching elections. He was talking to Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood and Caretaker Chief Minister Najam Sethi in Lahore on Wednesday. The president directed to take every step to ensure free‚ fair and transparent general election in the province. The governor and chief minister apprised the president about the measures being taken to ensure holding of free‚ fair and transparent elections in the province. He was also briefed on law and order situation and overall situation in Punjab.