Climate change blamed as erratic downpours hit Pakistan’s harvests

Late rains were unusually heavy this year, say local farmers, affecting winter crops of wheat, oilseed and potato.

Anxious farmers in Pakistan waited for weeks for the rains to arrive – but when the skies finally opened, the downpour was so intense it destroyed crops and put the harvest in jeopardy.

“We weather scientists are really in shock, and so are farmers, who have suffered economic losses due to crop damage,” says Muzammil Hussain, a weather forecasting scientist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

“The wind from the southeast has carried moisture from the Arabian Sea. Normally, the northeast wind brings rain during winter, and the southeast wind brings monsoon rains in summer. But the pattern has changed this year because of what is believed to be global warming.”

Farmers across much of Pakistan plant winter crops of wheat, oilseed and potato late in the year and wait for rains to water the land.

This year, the rains arrived more than three weeks late and were unusually heavy, accompanied by violent hailstorms. Along with the rains, temperatures also dropped.

Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Pakistan Agri Forum, says excessive moisture due to heavy bouts of late rain is likely to lead to outbreaks of fungus on crops, and production could be halved.

“If the rains come a month ahead of the harvesting time [April to mid-May], it is always disastrous,” he says. “It can hit production for a crop such as wheat by between 20% and 30%, and if the rain is accompanied by hailstorms and winds then the losses can escalate to more than 50%.”

Arif Mahmood, a former director general at PMD, says the onset of winter across much of Pakistan is being delayed by two to three days every year, and there is an urgent need for farmers to adapt to such changes.

“Over recent years, winter has been delayed by 25 to 30 days, and also the intensity of the cold has increased, which has affected almost every field of life − from agriculture to urban life.”

This year has also been marked by abrupt changes in temperature. Ghulam Rasul, a senior scientist at PMD, says big swings in temperature are likely to add to the problems being faced by millions of farmers in Pakistan.

“The average temperature during the first two weeks [of March] was between 11 and 13 degrees Celsius, but now it’s on a continuous upward trend and has reached 26˚C over the space of two days,” he reports.

“The winter rains in the north and central area of Pakistan, and the sudden rise and fall in temperature, are related to climate change.”

Serious damage

Similar storms and late winter rains have also caused serious damage across large areas of northern India.

The states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra – the two most populous states in the country – have been particularly badly hit.

In Maharashtra, snow and landslides have blocked roads and cut off towns and villages.

In Uttar Pradesh, there are fears that more than 50% of the wheat crop has been lost in the eastern part of the state. More

This article was produced by the Climate News Network

For the Pakistan Metorlogical Department to claim be shocked by this event says to me that they have obviously not been following the global climate change discussion. Farming methods and water control and harvesting will have to change to mitigate the changing climate. Permaculture farming methods would be a good place to start. See http://permaculturenews.org/about-permaculture-and-the-pri/ Editor

 

 

Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.

A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” Mr. Asif said in an interview, echoing a warning that he first issued at a news conference in Lahore this week.

The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.

In Pakistan, it poses a further challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government has come under sharp criticism for failing to end the country’s electricity crisis. In some rural areas, heavy rationing has meant that as little as four hours of electricity a day is available.

In the interview, Mr. Asif said the government had started to bring the electricity crisis under control, and predicted a return to a normal supply by 2017. But energy experts are less confident that such a turnaround is possible, given how long and complex the problem has proved to be.

Now the country’s water supply looms as a resource challenge, intensified by Pakistan’s enduring infrastructure and management problems.

Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Pakistani economy. The 2,000-mile-long Indus River, which rises in the Himalayas and spans the country, feeds a vast network of irrigation canals that line fields producing wheat, vegetables and cotton, all major sources of foreign currency. In the north, hydroelectric power stations are a cornerstone of the creaking power system.

A combination of melting glaciers, decreasing rainfall and chronic mismanagement by successive governments has put that water supply in danger, experts say.

In a report published in 2013, the Asian Development Bank described Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world, with a water availability of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year — a fivefold drop since independence in 1947, and about the same level as drought-stricken Ethiopia.

“It is a very serious situation,” said Pervaiz Amir, country director for the Pakistan Water Partnership. “I feel it is going to be more serious than the recent oil shortages.”

Shortages of resources have climbed to the top of the political agenda in recent years. Fuel shortages last month, for which government officials blamed mismanagement by the national oil company, caused lengthy lines outside fuel stations that embarrassed the government at a time of low global oil prices.

Mr. Sharif’s government was already grappling with the seemingly intractable electricity crisis, which regularly causes blackouts of 10 hours a day even in major cities. And Mr. Sharif has been visibly distracted by grueling political duels, with the opposition politician Imran Khan, who accuses him of stealing the 2013 election, and with powerful military leaders who have undermined his authority in key areas.

Mr. Asif, the water and energy minister, said the government had started to turn the corner. But he acknowledged that the country’s resource problems were, to a large degree, endemic. “There is a national habit of extravagance,” he said, noting that it extended across resource areas, whether gas, electricity or water.

“I will be very careful not to use the word ‘drought,’ but we are water stressed right now, and slowly, we are moving to be a water-starved country,” he said.

Evidence of chronic water shortages have been painfully evident in some parts of Pakistan in recent years. A drought caused by erratic rainfall in Tharparkar, a desert area in southern Sindh Province, caused a humanitarian emergency in the region last year.

“The frequency of monsoon rains has decreased but their intensity has increased,” said Mr. Amir of the Pakistan Water Partnership. “That means more water stress, particularly in winters.”

Water is also tied to nationalist, even jihadist, politics in Pakistan. For years, religious conservatives and Islamist militants have accused rival India, where the Indus River system rises, of constricting Pakistan’s water supply.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, regularly rails against Indian “water terrorism” during public rallies.

Mr. Asif said that contrary to such claims, India was not building reservoirs on rivers that flow into Pakistan. “We will never let it happen,” he said, citing the Indus Water Treaty, an agreement between the two countries that was brokered by the World Bank and signed in the 1960s.

One major culprit in Pakistan’s looming water crisis, experts say, is the country’s inadequate water storage facilities. In India, about one-third of the water supply is stored in reservoirs, compared with just 9 percent in Pakistan, Mr. Amir said.

“We built our last dam 46 years ago,” he said. “India has built 4,000 dams, with another 150 in the pipeline.”

Experts say the country’s chaotic policies are hurting its image in the eyes of Western donors who could help alleviate the mounting resource crises.

“The biggest looming crisis is of governance, not water — which could make this country unlivable in the next few years,” said Arshad H. Abbasi, a water and energy expert with the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute, a research group based in Islamabad. More

 

University library place of learning in volatile Pakistan city

BANNU, Pakistan – Central Asia Institute (CAI) has completed and turned over to the Pakistan government a 34,000-square-foot university library in one of the most volatile regions of the country.

The Central Library at University of Science and Technology-Bannu is the only project of its kind that CAI has done. It was requested by the university’s founding vice chancellor, Asmat Ullah Khan, in 2011.

“This university is a newly established institution with a total age of six years since its inception in November 2005,” Khan wrote in his initial request. “The day-and-nights continuous efforts of the university administration have made a record progress in the developmental works and the quality education in this remote, underdeveloped region of the province, although the financial constraints have always been the main obstacles in the achievement of the desired objectives.”

One longed-for objective was a library.

“The university was in dire need of a library,” said CAI’s former Pakistan director, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ilyas Mirza, who is from the region. “Their budget being too meager, (it) could hardly afford something of the size of what CAI donated to them.”

Plus, he added, “I wanted the youth of this area, victims of the war on terror, to have a state of-the-art library facility and access to a real source of learning.”

CONFLICT ZONE

Bannu’s location at the edge of North Waziristan, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, puts it in a sort of “no-go zone” for any international aid organizations, said CAI Co-Founder Greg Mortenson.

“Bannu, unfortunately, has become the epicenter of violence in the fighting between militants and the Pakistan police and army, and the U.S. further antagonizing the locals by drone bombings” Mortenson said. “It’s a consistently high-threat, high-conflict area, traditionally conservative, and often overlooked.”

The city is about 118 miles south of Peshawar, 23 miles east of the Pakistan-Afghan border, and just a little more than one mile east of North Waziristan, headquarters of the Pakistan Taliban and other terrorist networks.

The university is also just 700 meters from Bannu jail, which the Taliban attacked on April 15, 2012, just 15 days after work began on the library.

More than 200 heavily armed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants arrived predawn in numerous vehicles carrying AK-47s, hand grenades, and rocket launchers, according to news reports. They blew up the main gate, destroyed the boundary wall, and freed 384 prisoners, including some of Pakistan’s “most-wanted” criminals.

“The next 23 months were full of risk,” Mirza said. “Yet we continued and achieved something that CAI can be proud of.”

Acting Library Director Mohammad Hussain said the entire campus is grateful for the new library.

“I have been working at Bannu University since 2006, and we only had a room with some books for the library,” said Hussain, who is working on his PhD in library sciences from the University of Sargodha in Pakistan. “Now we have one of the best libraries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that we are very proud of.”

CAMPUS CENTERPIECE

The two-story, red brick library situated in the center of the campus was completed in 2014.

“It is now for the university to encourage its faculty and students to make maximum use of it,” Mirza said. “Let it be turned into a real place of learning.”

Bannu is a conservative region and CAI and the university designed the library with separate study areas for males and females. However, some students do mingle in co-ed areas of the library while working on class projects.

In addition to the library, CAI donated a water-supply system for the university and awarded scholarships to nine graduate-level female students for two years of study.

Bannu is situated at the convergence of the Kurram and Gambila rivers, which irrigate the traditional barley, wheat, and corn crops. British visitors to the region in the mid 1800s referred to Bannu as a paradise, said Mortenson, who has visited the Bannu region several times since 1996. It also has a rich history as a place of religious tolerance.

“Until recently, it was a place where Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus lived in harmony for centuries,” he said.

Hamza Ameer, a writer who visited Bannu four times in 2014 to document the displacement of refugees from the North Waziristan conflict, described a special place in Bannu called Holy Street, “a symbol of religious harmony, patience, and acceptance for the world,” he wrote.

“The street starts with a church, whose wall is attached [to] a Shiite Imam Bargah [Mosque], wall of who is attached to a Hindu Ram Mandir [temple], attached to a Muslim mosque,” Ameer wrote.

FILL IT WITH BOOKS

But despite that history of tolerance, the region is now in turmoil. In addition to the fighting, the influx of Waziristan refugees, said to total as many as 500,000, has made the city and surrounding areas chaotic, Mirza said.

“The library should be a center of peace and calm amid all the conflict and difficulties,” he said.

Although CAI will remain in contact with library and university officials, maintenance of the new building and work to build a good collection of books is the responsibility of the university and Pakistan’s Ministry of Higher Education.

“We have very few resources to enhance the library,” Hussain said. “The KP Higher Education Commission and federal government do not have funds allocated for the ongoing maintenance of the library, and this year the federal government made significant cuts in education funding.”

At the present time, a library support group is being formed to raise awareness and generate more support for books, technology, training, and supplies. However, the recent militant activity, escalating conflict, and lack of federal funding have made progress difficult.

The university has received several donations of books, mostly science, technology, and curriculum-related. But it badly needs more books.

Hussain and others within the university administration expressed hope that libraries in the United States, Canada, and Europe might take an interest in their library and work with them to expand the collection.

“Any joint effort to promote higher education, reading, and learning in the region could also be a catalyst for promoting tolerance, just as the city of Bannu has done for two centuries,” Mortenson said.

Inquiries regarding library support or book donations can be directed to:

Central Library University of Science & Technology-Bannu Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province
Pakistan 28100
Phone + 92-928-633817
Email pro@ustb.edu.pk

QUOTE: “Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge … of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species.” ― Carl Sagan

 

 

Pakistani Taliban: The fault in their narrative

On December 16, 2014, Pakistani Taliban massacred over 132 children when they attacked a high school in Peshawar.

Taliban in the spring of 2013

They rationalized this attack as a reaction to the violence perpetrated against them (whether by the Pakistani military or US drones). This narrative attempts to shift blame for the violence away from the Taliban, creating an environment where the population becomes sympathetic to their rationales, even while disagreeing with their tactics. Therefore, it is increasingly important to challenge the Taliban narrative.

First, simply claiming to be fighting in reaction to military operations, does not make it true. Taliban in Pakistan were targeting civilians long before the start of any military campaigns. Lethal force was employed against them because the militants had started violence against the Pakistan state, rather than vice versa.

Second, while civilians are in fact being harmed by both the Pakistani military and the US drones, it is not clear if these victims are necessarily joining the Taliban. In fact, there is considerable evidence of child recruitment and forcible recruitment within the Taliban organizations.

Third, in the context of Afghanistan, in his study Jason Lyall found that while insurgents do increase their attacks after the use of force by the counter-insurgency, civilian casualties play an insignificant role in motivating these attacks. To put it simply, terrorist do not care about civilian casualties. By definition, terrorism is a tactic that deliberately targets civilians. Militants increase attacks because their own survival is threatened, and violence is a way of bolstering their bargaining leverage. The choice of targeting a school does show desperation on their part. To quote a Pakistani general, “The militants know they won’t be able to strike at the heart of the military, they don’t have the capacity. So they are going for soft targets.”

The use of lethal force against terrorist groups is a hard sell in today’s political climate, as experts often argue that it exacerbates the problem of terrorism. However, if the use of weapons is to be reduced in the “war against terrorism,” then it is important to challenge the terrorists’ narrative and condemn their actions in an unapologetic fashion. This will shrink the sympathetic space that makes it easier for these groups to operate, making their demise more likely. More

 

Targeted Killing of Terrorists

High technology enables the United States and other countries to kill specific terrorists with limited collateral damage. Yet, as Nicholas Rostow reminds us, just because targeted killings may be arguably legal and even ‘prudential’, that doesn’t mean they avoid certain costs.

The struggle against terrorism—more specifically, the effort to prevent terrorist attacks—has raised difficult legal and policy issues including so-called targeted killing, or the killing of specific individuals because of their involvement in terrorist organizations and operations. As we shall see, this form of targeted killing involves domestic and international legal authorities and policy and prudential issues. A substantial number of countries confronting what they consider to be terrorist attacks and threats engage in targeted killings. Each has to resolve questions about authorities and prudence because, while terrorists are always criminals, they also may be lawful military targets. The dual character of terrorists leads to the conclusion that, as a matter of policy, a state should weigh the totality of the circumstances and conclude that no other action is reasonable to prevent a terrorist attack before engaging in the targeted killing. Careful analysis in advance may preempt problems later.

This essay addresses the question principally from the American perspective. It examines the authority, as a matter of U.S. law, for the United States to kill individual terrorists and the international legal context for such operations. The operating premise is that the targeted killing of al Qaeda leaders is emblematic of the subject under review in contrast to such domestic police action against terrorists as the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and execution of Timothy McVeigh, who was principally responsible for the bombing of the Federal office building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.1 The essay concludes that authority in domestic and international law exists for such operations and that, as a policy choice, the United States would do well to apply the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in the conflict with terrorists whether or not it is legally required. In any event, policymakers need to weigh the consequences of targeted killing operations because, like all military operations, unforeseen results—positive and negative—are likely.

Authorities for Targeted Killing

As spokesmen for the U.S. Government have emphasized,2 America’s use of force against terrorists takes place in the context of “armed conflict.” For practical and legal reasons they distinguish the conflict with al Qaeda and similar organizations from counterterrorism law enforcement at home or in other countries, which principally involves the police. This delimitation is commonsensical. It is also important. One does not want the U.S. Government engaging in military operations on American soil absent extraordinary circumstances. Authority for using the military instrument abroad against terrorists in the context of “armed conflict” comes from the Constitution and statute, and the use of armed force needs to comply with the international law of armed conflict (also known as the laws of war or international humanitarian law).

More than 200 years of practice have confirmed that the President has the responsibility to direct the Armed Forces to defend the country. The President accordingly had constitutional authority to order counterattacks by U.S. forces against terrorists who had engaged in attacks against the United States and its citizens even before September 11, 2001.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have not had to rely on their constitutional authority alone. After September 11, 2001, Congress gave the President broad authority

to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.3

This statute provided explicit authority for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and against those the President determined were involved in the September 11 attacks. The words “necessary and appropriate” limit the use of the military instrument to those situations where police action, by the United States or the state in which the terrorist is found, is impossible. Had the perpetrators resembled Timothy McVeigh and been subject to arrest inside the United States, the use of the Armed Forces would have been neither necessary nor appropriate. One therefore should not expect remotely piloted aircraft attacks in London. In states unable or unwilling to take action to prevent their territories from being used by terrorists, the legal and practical situation is different. A use of force, as against Osama bin Laden, may be lawful as well as the only practicable course, especially when a host government withholds its cooperation. On balance, it became more important to the United States and to the international multilateral effort to suppress terrorism to capture or kill bin Laden than to be sensitive to a breach of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and amour propre.

The conduct of military operations pursuant to these constitutional and statutory authorities has to conform to U.S. legal obligations regarding armed conflict. In the main, the rules for American use of force are contained in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and subsequent treaties to which the Nation is a party or, as in the case of some articles of the 1977 Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which Washington regards as accurate statements of the customary international law of armed conflict. In 2010 the State Department Legal Adviser stated that the United States applied “law of war principles,” including:

First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the subject of the attack; and

Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.4

In other words, if the target is lawful under the laws of armed conflict, a state may use weapons, including weapons delivered by remotely piloted, unmanned aerial vehicles, against such targets. In this sense, targeted killing is high technology sniping.

This analysis rests on the premise that the United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaeda as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001, a conclusion that itself reflects a process of analysis. Under longstanding principles of international law, a state bears responsibility for uses of force from its territory about which it knew or should have known. That responsibility includes a duty to prevent and, if prevention proves impossible, suppress. When a state is unable or unwilling to discharge such international legal obligations, the victim state presumptively has rights of self-defense. Thus, when Afghanistan was the base from which the 9/11 attacks were conducted and when Afghanistan was unwilling or unable to take action against the perpetrators, the United States enjoyed the right to use force in self-defense to attack those actors in Afghanistan. This legal analysis provides the basis for the U.S. use of force in Afghanistan commencing in 2001.

Laws of War and Targeted Killing

Confusion has bedeviled discussion of the conflict between the United States and al Qaeda. Assuming that al Qaeda is a true nonstate actor, governments have had to decide whether the United States is in international armed conflict with al Qaeda and, if so, what rules apply. These questions are rooted in the language of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

By their terms, the Conventions apply to conflicts among the “High Contracting Parties” or to “armed conflict[s] not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties.”5 This language means, respectively, conflicts between or among states and civil wars.6 Based on that language, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the conflict with al Qaeda was a global, noninternational armed conflict to which Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applied because that seemed to be the only part of the Conventions that could apply to nonstate actors.7 While the effort to avoid placing alleged terrorists in a legal no-man’s land is laudable, the Supreme Court’s effort in this regard involved intellectual incoherence. As it must, the executive branch adheres to the Supreme Court decision. At the same time, without violating that decision, the U.S. Government may follow an intellectually coherent and simpler approach than the Supreme Court’s by following the Geneva Convention lead.8

The Geneva Convention Approach

The Geneva Conventions, binding as they are on all states, provide a useful guide to governments. They do so whether one uses military or law enforcement instruments against terrorists. If a government treats terrorists outside its jurisdiction or the jurisdiction of a state capable of using the criminal law against terrorists as subject to the Geneva Conventions, then its course is clear. If it captures a terrorist fighter, that fighter may be prosecuted for violations of the Geneva Conventions and then returned to prisoner of war status once a sentence, if any, is served. Prisoner of war status ends with the end of the conflict. Today it is difficult to foresee an end to the U.S. conflict with al Qaeda notwithstanding the deaths of so many al Qaeda leaders and followers.

Treating terrorists as if they are not combatants and are not entitled to prisoner of war status may be legally correct; it nonetheless puts a government in a policy and legal straitjacket. Terrorists inevitably fail the requirements set forth in the third Geneva Convention to wear a uniform, carry weapons openly, obey the laws of war, and operate in an organized fashion under a commander responsible for his or her subordinates, with rigorous systems of command and control, in order to enjoy the privileged status of combatant and prisoner of war upon capture.9 The terrorists’ failure in these respects does not make it easier to deal with detainees, as the American experience during the past 11 years demonstrates. As a result, a new approach is needed. That approach should be rooted in the law and in common sense. The Geneva Conventions provide both.

For the United States, acting as if terrorists captured in battlefield conditions are combatants and therefore prisoners of war would have a number of benefits. First, it would limit challenges to the legal status of detainees because they would not be held in what might appear to be legal limbo. As a result, whether they were held in prisoner of war facilities within the United States or at Guantánamo Bay would not matter in legal terms. Detainees would not acquire more rights by being held as prisoners of war within the United States than they do in Guantánamo Bay, and the administration should be able to close the prison facilities there without increasing its legal exposure. Second, it would clarify the status of prisoners for prison guards by making clear that the prisoners were not in a penitentiary status unless convicted of a crime. Third, it could improve the international reputation of the United States, which stands sullied as a result of allegations of torture and questions about its authority to hold alleged terrorists indefinitely, even those who might be acquitted at trial.

Since 9/11, the United States has traveled far in its quest to diminish, if not eliminate, the risk of terrorist attack. In the process it has revealed much about its willingness to engage in targeted killing and the conclusion that this tactic is useful and “wise” as well as legal.10 The argument for wisdom is that technology permits such a high degree of accuracy that collateral damage—the killing of bystanders—and the risk to American lives are reduced. The third test of wisdom is an act’s consequences. The wise strategist will weigh consequences of chosen tactics. For example, the negative consequences of the frequent U.S. use of remotely piloted aircraft to attack al Qaeda in Pakistan in 2011 led to an intense “Pakistani animus toward unilateral U.S. action [with] huge implications for America’s counterterrorism aspirations in the country.”11 To avoid negative consequences does not require inaction, but rather an effort at forethought and foresight. It is something that cannot be guaranteed even if one abides by the law. So far the United States has followed U.S. and international law by engaging in targeted killing as a combat tactic against military targets. Keeping to this line will be clarifying and simplifying even though one may argue that the law does not require treating terrorists as if they were military targets. Lawfulness by itself does not guarantee wisdom. But it is a good starting place. JFQ More

 

Karachi thirsts for a water supply

KARACHI: On the outskirts of the slums of Pakistan’s biggest city, protesters burning tires and throwing stones have what sounds like a simple demand: They want water at least once a week.

In Karachi people go days without getting water from city trucks, sometimes forcing them to use groundwater contaminated with salt. A recent drought has only made the problem worse. And as the city of roughly 18 million people rapidly grows, the water shortages are only expected to get worse.

“During the last three months they haven’t supplied a single drop of water in my neighbourhood,” protester Yasmeen Islam said. “It doesn’t make us happy to come on the roads to protest but we have no choice anymore.”

Karachi gets most of its water from the Indus River — about 550 million gallons per day — and another 100 million gallons from the Hub Dam that is supplied by water from neighbouring Balochistan province. But in recent years, drought has hurt the city’s supply.

Misbah Fareed, a senior official with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board that runs the city’s water supplies, said that only meets about half the city’s needs — 1.2 billion gallons a day.

Karachi’s water distribution network has exacerbated the problem by forcing much of the city to get its water through tankers instead of directly from pipes. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board operates 12 water hydrants around the city where tankers fill up and then distribute. Even people in the richest areas of the city get their water through tankers that come a few times a week to fill up underground cisterns.

But criminals have illegally tapped into the city’s water pipes and set up their own distribution points where they siphon off water and sell it.

“I personally know some people previously associated with drug mafias who now switched to the water tanker business,” Fareed said. “Just imagine how lucrative the business is.”

Other areas of Pakistan pump massive amounts of groundwater. But in the coastal city of Karachi, the underground water is too salty to drink. Many people have pumps but they use the water for things such as showering or washing clothes.

The water shortage is exacerbated by Karachi’s massive population. Pakistani military operations and American drone strikes in the northern tribal regions, as well as natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes, have pushed people toward a city long seen as the economic heart of Pakistan.

The city is trying to increase the amount of water it gets from the Indus River by building another canal — dubbed the K4 project. But even if they were to get political approval from the capital to take more water from the river, it would take a minimum of four years to build.

But analysts say supply isn’t the only problem. Farhan Anwar, who runs an organisation called Sustainable Initiatives in Karachi, said the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is horribly overstaffed and many of those are political appointees. The cost for water is also very low and the agency doesn’t collect all that it’s due, Anwar said. That’s made it difficult to upgrade the ageing pipes the system does have, meaning contamination and leakages are common.

Meanwhile, Karachi residents have to spend more money or walk further and further to get water. One elderly resident Aisha Saleem said in recent months even the little water they get from the water board is salty.

“Women and kids have to go miles by foot and carry drinking water every day,” she said More

 

After Modi’s Big Win: Can India and Pakistan Enhance Relations?

As the new Indian government settles in, questions arise about the future of the Indian-Pakistani relationship—questions prompted mostly by the new Indian prime minister’s history of Hindu nationalism.

Frederic Grare

But a more revealing lens for analyzing this relationship might be to regard it from the perspective of Pakistan. Pakistan’s “dysfunctional civil-military relations” suggest an uncertain political future, leaving India in an essentially reactive role. That dynamic, may have an even more powerful impact than Narendra Modi’s politics.

Modi’s decision to invite his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony together with all the other heads of state or government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, was considered a positive gesture on both sides of the border. The meeting between the two prime ministers was cordial and frank but—to no one’s surprise—not groundbreaking.

While Pakistani leaders are unanimous and sincere in welcoming warmer relations with India, civilians and military officials have opposing long-term objectives. It is doubtful that the Pakistani military supports such a change for any reasons beyond the narrowly tactical, and in fact will fight fiercely against such a change affecting its territorial claims. Sharif is pursuing an opposite strategy—trying to turn a tactical rapprochement into a more permanent arrangement.

India is likely to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. While the election of a new government may have elevated resolve to punish Pakistan in case of a terrorist attack, it has not increased India’s capacity to coerce its neighbor into any specific outcome. New Delhi will have to walk a fine line between ignoring Pakistan, which it can’t control and does not need economically, and keeping the door to better relations open enough to provide a real incentive for Islamabad to adopt meaningful new policies—all without making unilateral concessions to Pakistan.

Most-Favored-Nation Status

A year ago, then-candidate Sharif made the normalization of relations with India a central plank of his platform. Hopes were high, therefore, that Pakistan would finally extend India Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status, removing tariff and other trade barriers. Sharif did not spell out any preconditions. But, twelve months later, the issue is still pending. Pakistan is now stipulating that the MFN status will be attributed to India only if New Delhi reopens the composite dialogue, a stalled executive-level negotiation process.

Awarding the MFN status to India is important in its own right. A substantial part of the business community, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises, seem to fear being overwhelmed by a massive arrival of cheaper Indian products on the Pakistani market. Nontariff barriers to India’s market have also been invoked as a justification for Pakistan’s hesitations. Yet, the Pakistani government continues to insist on the need to facilitate bilateral trade between the two countries. It blames several Indian lobbies (the automobile, textile and pharmaceutical industries as well as the agricultural lobbies) for obstructing the negotiations and maintains that awarding India MFN status would benefit Pakistan.

However, the MFN issue provides clues to a larger domestic political dynamic in Pakistan. The main political parties support Sharif’s policy. Jihadi organizations, on the contrary, oppose any trade deals with New Delhi as long as Kashmir remains under Indian control. Here, as elsewhere, the jihadis are joined by the military—whose opposition Sharif seems to have underestimated. The nomination of Raheel Sharif as replacement for Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) did not usher a more receptive posture in Rawalpindi. It was the military that insisted that the government take the small- and medium-sized enterprises’ objections to heart. It also lent its explicit support to their cause, warning the Sharif brothers “against making rapid concessions, particularly in the run-up to India’s general election.” In February 2014, Shabaz Sharif, the prime minister’s brother, obliquely accused the military of obstructing trade normalization.

Awarding the MFN status to India would thus serve the interests of the civilian government, not to mention the country, whose economy would benefit from free trade with India. But such a move would only partly benefit the military. This relative convergence opens some diplomatic and political space that the government can exploit, providing it can keep its relations with the military under control. Yet, a spectacular advance in trade relations between India and Pakistan is unlikely. In the delay, Pakistan, whose economy is in shambles, has much more to lose than India does. New Delhi can afford patience. Its economic future lies in its integration in the global economy, not in any specific trade relation with its South Asian neighbors. More