Islamabad could learn some self-esteem from Ethiopia

Mansoor Jafar
Mansoor Jafar
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World Ocean Day was observed this week, on June 08, with emotional appeals at seminars and gatherings to preserve dwindling marine life and the purity of oceans which, if dried up, would deprive human beings of 40 percent of the food they consume and 75 per cent of the oxygen on earth.

Not to be taken as a joke, I think the world has badly failed to protect life in dry lands, which are just 29 per cent of the earth, and the environment as a whole. However, this week’s plea was for the oceans, which account for 71 per cent of the earth’s surface, should be drowned in calls for action on such subjects as Syria and Kashmir and the loss of human life there. Before the eyes of United Nations, the lands of Syria and Myanmar are being soaked with human blood and the weeping eyes of Palestine and Kashmir have long dried up, but no action plan to save the human beings there could come out of the closed walls of UN.

Similarly, the new government in energy-starved Pakistan seems unable to tackle the designs of its belligerent neighbor, India, which has constructed about 70 dams on the rivers flowing into Pakistan in violation of international laws and agreements. These dams threaten to dry up vast agricultural lands that feed 180 million people, and choke hydro-electric power units that run the wheels of industry and light up the country.

The new government in energy-starved Pakistan seems unable to tackle the designs of its belligerent neighbor, India

Mansoor Jafar

In view of the ongoing conflict over river-waters between the two hostile nuclear neighbors, many eyebrows were raised when soon after winning the recent elections, the Prime Minister Designate Nawaz Sharif announced inviting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his oath taking.

It is not just Pakistan and India having a row over the rights, distribution and use of river water. Many other countries are engaged in similar conflicts. Egypt and Sudan have raised a hue and cry these days over the ongoing construction of a dam in Ethiopia as it will seeks to change the course of the River Nile.

Ethiopia is the source of river Nile which has flown into a number of countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, southern Sudan and Egypt for centuries. The banks of this longest river of the world have been the cradles of human civilizations and have also run red with human blood since countless wars have been fought for the control of its waters. Egypt has built the biggest dam on the river but has now challenged Ethiopia’s right to do the same.

India and Bangladesh have also been engaged in rifts over river waters and also had skirmishes to prove their own rights. Even inside India there have been many conflicts over river waters. And Pakistan has also had many internal rows over the distribution of river waters. Most countries usually find a justified and honorable solution to those discords, but we in south Asia are used to sitting on such issues.

Hanging between life and death

Pakistan is hanging between life and death because of acute power shortages that have almost crippled life by bringing industry to a grinding halt and casting darkness across the country with long hours of load shedding. But the rulers have never been able to fully comprehend the problem and adopt the necessary strategy to overcome the power shortage. Both the present and previous rulers have been busy making tall claims and rosy promises to the masses, but any practical approach to solve the issue has always been missing.

It was strange in comparison, that a weak and backward country like Ethiopia is holding a courageous position on its diplomatic front against a powerful country like Egypt to realize its share of river water. According to latest Wiki leaks, Egypt had guessed quite long ago at the possible construction of an Ethiopian dam at the source of the Nile. Deposed president Hosni Mubarak had requested his Sudanese counterpart Omar Hasan al-bashir to allow Egypt to set up a small military base in Sudan with a rapid action commando force which could destroy the controversial Al-Nahda dam right at the start of its construction.

Wiki leaks claimed both countries had agreed upon the plan but Hosni Mubarak was removed from power when the time of its implementation came about. But his successor Mohammad Mursi is continuing with all the strategic policies of his government, including the al-Nahda dam and keeping diplomatic relations with Israel at the cost of creating a divide among his countrymen.

If a new Pakistani government lacked the vision to see the causes of the crashing electoral defeat of their predecessors, they should at least borrow some self-esteem from a backward country like Ethiopia and make some concrete planning to counter Indian “water terrorism” against Pakistan. Despite that, the alluring and catchy slogan of ‘Amn Ki Asha’ (desire for peace) has almost taken Pakistanis into a magic spell. Yet I feel that any legal and diplomatic fight with New Delhi for realizing the water rights of 180 million Pakistanis would not be construed as a significant cut in the love of the rulers for “peace.”


Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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