- Analysts and experts are skeptical and say the call for voluntary donations may not leave any impact
- “The problem of water scarcity has less to do with dams and more to do with inefficient management of water resources,” argues Raza Rumi
KARACHI: The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has urged overseas Pakistanis to wage a “dam jihad” by generously sending funds to the “PM-CJ fund for Diamer Bhasha and Muhammad Dam.”
In his recorded address to the overseas Pakistanis, televised on state-run and private television channels here on Friday evening, Prime Minister Imran Khan said each of the overseas Pakistanis in Europe and the US should contribute at least $1,000 in the fund for dams, which can be built within five years.
“Those working in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East should send any amount they can contribute but Pakistanis in Europe and the US should send at least $1,000, which will not only help us build dams but also get dollars as we are facing shortage of them,” Khan told overseas Pakistanis, who, he said, numbered between eight and nine million. “That’s minimum, even more should be contributed.”
Dams are essential for the future of Pakistan, he said.
“We have 30 days’ water storage whereas a country like Egypt, which was once faced with worst water shortage, has storage capacity of 1,000 days.
“If we didn’t build dams, God forbid me, we will leave a hill of problems for our nation,” Khan said, adding the country could face complete drought by 2025.
“It’s not the Chief Justice’s job. It was the work of political leaders who should have thought for provision of the dam funds,” Khan said. PM said Rs180 crore?? were collected in the Chief Justice’s fund, which has now merged and will be called “PM-CJ fund for Diamer Bhasha and Muhammad Dam.”
“All Pakistanis, especially the overseas should contribute in the dam fund,” he said, adding that he had built and run hospital and university with the funding of overseas Pakistanis.
“No one has to give us a loan, we will have to make it on our own, and I assure you that I will protect your money and it will be spent on the dams only,” he pledged.
“There is no doubt that Pakistan is facing an acute water shortage for which Imran Khan has approached the overseas Pakistanis,” Aamir Latif, a Karachi-based analyst and journalist, told Arab News.
Latif is optimistic. “Given the fact that overseas Pakistanis have always been generous to send funds on Imran Khan’s appeals, they are likely to respond to his dams’ funds.
“The overseas Pakistanis had been funding Shaukat Khanum Hospital, the National University of Modern Languages and even sending election funds to the PTI, which is why PM Khan is sure that he will get a sizable amount. It will not only help the government build the dams but also bolster the rescinding foreign reserves,” he said.
However, others are not convinced.
Raza Rumi, a US-based Pakistani analyst, concurs that the PTI is the most popular of political parties among the overseas Pakistanis.
“Imran has high hopes from his followers abroad. Voluntary donations, however, can’t tackle the chronic issues faced by the country,” he said.
This is a populist measure and is hardly going to make an impact in terms of the serious challenges that Pakistan is facing, he said. adding: “The problem of water scarcity has less to do with dams and more to do with inefficient management of water resources.”
Similarly, Pakistan has billions of dollars’ foreign debt and it’s required to repay at least $16 billion as debt commitments within months.
“It is highly unlikely that oversees Pakistani will pay off even a fraction of this amount. It is also unfair to ask hardworking Pakistanis to compensate the excessive state expenditures, mismanagement and corruption.”
Shahab Osto, a water expert and petitioner who had moved the apex court over the issue of supply of contaminated water to Karachi, terms Imran Khan’s measure as “over-optimism” and with “no hopes of major impact.”
“Dams need a huge amount and can’t be built without going to the international financial institutions for funding,” Osto told Arab News.
“Public policy issues are resolved with financial feasibility not through just announcement,” Osto said, adding that the country had no water policy either and if he had ever heard of any plans to making it no such policy was made.
“Today’s address of the PM shows his over-optimism and I see it making no major impact,” he concluded.