DAWN - Opinion; August 26, 2003

Published August 26, 2003

Capital market’s recovery

By Shahid Javed Burki

ON two consecutive days, the Karachi Stock Exchange, Pakistan’s largest capital market, crossed a series of thresholds. On August 7, the KSE-100 index set a new record at 4205 to be beaten again on the following day when the market rose by another 119 points to reach 4323. The record in terms of the number of shares changing hands was also set on August 7 when it reached 959 million. The following day even this record was beaten when 961 million shares were traded.

One company, Hubco Power, saw 311 million of its shares traded, adding to the breathless pace at which the market was moving. By the time this article appears in print, the market may have set new records. Or, it may have moved through a correction. That notwithstanding, it is worth asking some questions. What is happening to the Pakistani capital market? Is its recent spectacular performance the consequence of speculative pressures that may produce a bubble that would get pricked later? Or are we seeing the initiation of a new trend, the birth of a new and buoyant market? Are foreigners bringing portfolio capital into Pakistan?

There is no doubt that some recent reporting by the western financial press is bringing Pakistan’s capital markets back into focus. That this is happening is not only because of the brisk pace at which the KSE-100 index has advanced in the last few months. It has reached a level unimaginable when the recovery in the capital market started a few months ago.

The market’s capitalization has reached the point where it will begin to appear on the radar screens of foreign money managers. Foreign investors are noting other aspects of the performance of the Pakistani market as well, not just its level. There is little doubt in my mind that fresh capital will flow into Pakistan. That might take the KSE-100 index to new heights. Or, at least, infusion of new money may keep the KSE-100 index at or near the heights to which it has already climbed.

Before going on to discuss the aspects of the Pakistani market that have begun to attract the attention of the foreign investors, I should first emphasize that portfolio flows from abroad do not always result in nirvana. Short term capital looking for high returns on investment is terribly skittish: it can fly in and move out at the flick of a computer’s switch.

This is one reason why financial and monetary authorities in both Islamabad and Karachi should take a careful note of what is happening and be prepared to step in when action is required. Developing world’s recent financial history is full of adverse turns in fortunes when foreign investors, having been attracted to a particular market by some feature that delighted them, took flight when something untoward happened. The foreign investors’ flight brought the great financial crisis of East Asia in 1997-98 that nearly devastated the economies of the region.

The more recent health scare created by the rapid spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) took a lot of air out of the markets of several East Asian countries. Pakistan also has experienced its share of unpleasant surprises. The May 1998 explosion of nuclear devices in the mountains of Chaghai, Balochistan, persuaded money managers in the world’s financial markets that the Pakistani risk was not worth taking for assembling their portfolios.

The sanctions that followed those explosions convinced the investors that their fears about Pakistan and moving money into the country were justified. Pakistan’s risk factor jumped a few more notches following “nine-eleven.” The Karachi market was seen sitting on top of a volcano that, having burst once with the terrorists’ attack on New York and Washington, could become active again.

While the foreigners’ interest in the Pakistani market is now palpable, it is worth noting that in spite of the many positive economic developments, the country is not regarded as “emerging” by several reputable financial publications. To take just one example, The Economist, in the statistical section that appears at the end of the magazine, provides a host of what it calls “emerging market indicators.”

These data are presented for 25 countries. Pakistan is not among them. Ten Asian countries are included in the list — China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The list includes seven countries from Latin America, three from West Asia (Egypt, Israel and Turkey), four from East Europe and one from Africa (South Africa). The day the editors of The Economist decide that Pakistan’s economic and financial performance is worth tracking in order to bring it to the attention of the investor community, there will be an increase in interest by foreign money managers to invest in the country.

Let me go back to the question with which I began this column: What has provoked interest in the Pakistani capital market. The first reason is the realization by some financial analysts and writers that the international money markets may be overlooking the entire South Asian region as an area of considerable economic potential. This recognition has come in spite of the tremendous excitement about India that has been around for quite a while. But there are other countries in the region and they have sizable economies. Pakistan is one of them.

Gary Kleigman, a British financial writer, noted in a report published in early August that “foreign investors dismissed 2002’s top emerging market performance by Pakistan as a fluke and were dubious about prospects elsewhere in South Asia, but those markets reported double digit gains in the first half of this year and attracted strong inflows as a result.” That the South Asian performance was not accidental and may not even be a bubble was attributed to some fundamental changes in economic policies pursued by several countries in the area.

These included shifts in interest rates, that had declined significantly, and improvements in balance of payments that were equally significant. India was now sitting on a mountain of foreign reserves, estimated at $80 billion. These were still small compared to those accumulated by China ($331 billion), Taiwan ($175 billion) and South Korea ($128 billion). Nonetheless, among the 25 countries in the emerging world followed by The Economist, Indian reserves were the sixth highest.

Pakistan had also done exceedingly well in this area — unexpectedly so. Its reserves at about $10.7 billion were now in the comfortable zone. They were more than at least four of The Economist’s 25 emerging markets — Colombia, Peru, South Africa and Venezuela. Foreign investors draw comfort from the level of reserves a country’s central bank holds.

It is one indication that the economy is not likely to go into a deep balance of payments crisis if something quite unpleasant happens, say a sudden spike in the price of oil. With enough money in the kitty to pay for about ten months of likely imports, Pakistan should be able to weather many future storms.

Financial analysts are, of course, noticing the impressive run-up in several South Asian bourses in recent months. Pakistan’s $12 billion capital market — the level reached before the present run up and, therefore, now considerably higher at over $18 billion — outperformed that of India by a wide margin. After having more than doubled in 2002, the KSE-100 index registered a further increase of 20 per cent in the first six months of 2003.

The $140 billion Indian bourse — twelve times as large as that of Pakistan while the size of the Indian economy is only eight times that of Pakistan — rose by 13 per cent in the first half of 2003. Interestingly, it is Sri Lanka that produced by far the best performance in the region with its $2 billion stock market advancing by 47 per cent in the first half of this year.

The country was reaping the peace dividend as the government and the Tamil separatists continued to move towards some kind of a accommodation.

We could witness the same sort of run up in the stock markets of India and Pakistan if the slight easing of tensions between them picks up momentum and the world of finance is convinced that the dark clouds of military confrontation have finally begun to thin. They had darkened for a long time the economic landscape of these two rival nations. It was only in Bangladesh that the performance of the stock market was relatively poor with the index increasing by only 2.7 per cent in the first six months of the year.

The more positive reading of the Pakistani economic situation was certainly helped by the rating increases made by several well known agencies. Moody’s upgraded its rating from Coal to B3 and Standard and Poor revised it from B- to B. This was a highly welcome development since, for quite a while, Pakistan’s credit rating had dropped even lower than those given to some of the world’s least developed countries.

Improved assessment by credit agencies lowers what financial analysts call “country risk.” When the risk is high, capital markets are reluctant to lend to the borrowers, even to the governments. If money does become available, it is very costly with large spreads — the difference between the rate charged from the most credit-worthy borrower and the rate at which funds are available to an operator in a relatively risky market.

The recent improvements in the reading of the credit agencies has resulted in a sharp narrowing of the spreads. For instance Eurobond spreads for Pakistan declined significantly, from 670 basic points (6.7 percentage points) to 255 basic points. Pakistan is now able to borrow from the international markets at rates considerably lower than those available to such countries as Brazil and South Africa.

A recent development in the way investors view opportunities has helped the Pakistani capital market become an attractive destination. After the “dot.com” fiasco when the investment community was prepared to pour money into companies that promised results in the future — sometimes in the very distant future — investors have now begun to view with considerable favour the companies that provide immediate returns. These are available in the form of dividends.

The recent changes in the United States’ tax law which has significantly lowered the government’s take on divided income, has also brought back into focus the enterprises that pay immediate returns to investors. As a financial analyst puts it, “the hunt for dividend yield is becoming a global phenomenon.” Dividend returns in the Pakistani markets at about 11 per cent are among the highest in the world.

There is now enough positive economic news coming from Pakistan to attract foreign portfolio flows into the country. They will continue to help the markets advance but the country’s regulators should keep a close watch on the developing situation. The markets’ rise must be based on fundamentals, not on speculation.

The language and reality: Dreams and delusions-II

By Edward W. Said

THE truth of the matter is that reality is neither at the individual’s command (no matter how powerful) nor does it necessarily adhere more closely to some peoples and mentalities than to others.

The human condition is made up of experience and interpretation, and those can never be completely dominated by power: they are also the common domain of human beings in history.

The terrible mistakes made by Wolfowitz and Leith came down to their arrogant substitution of abstract and finally ignorant language for a far more complex and recalcitrant reality. The appalling results are still before us.

So let us not accept any longer the ideological demagoguery that leaves language and reality as the sole property of American power, or of so-called western perspectives.

The core of the matter is of course imperialism, that (in the end banal) self-assumed mission to rid the world of evil figures like Saddam in the name of justice and progress.

Revisionist justifications of the invasion of Iraq and the American war on terrorism that have become one of the least welcome imports from an earlier failed empire, Britain, and have coarsened discourse and distorted fact and history with alarming fluency, is proclaimed by expatriate British journalists in America who don’t have the honesty to say straight out, yes, we are superior and reserve the right to teach the natives a lesson anywhere in the world where we perceive them to be nasty and backward.

And why do we have that right? Because those wooly-haired natives whom we know from having ruled our empire for 500 years and now want America to follow, have failed: they fail to understand our superior civilization, they are addicted to superstition and fanaticism, they are unregenerate tyrants who deserve punishment, and we, by God, are the ones to do the job, in the name of progress and civilization.

If some of these fickle journalistic acrobats (who have served so many masters that they don’t have any moral bearings at all) can also manage to quote Marx and German scholars — despite their avowed anti-Marxism and their rank ignorance of any languages or scholarship not English — in their favour, then how much cleverer they seem. It’s just racism at bottom though, no matter how dressed up it is.

The problem is actually a deeper and more interesting one than the polemicists and publicists for American power have imagined.

All over the world people are all experiencing the quandary of a revolution in thought and vocabulary in which American neo-liberalism and “pragmatism” are made on the one hand by American policy-makers to stand for a universal norm, whereas in fact — as we have seen in the Iraq example I cited above — there are all sorts of slippages and double standards in the use of words like “realism,” “pragmatism,” and other words like “secular” and “democracy” that need complete re-thinking and re-evaluation.

Reality is too complex and multifarious to lend itself to jejune formulae like “a democratic Iraq amenable to us would result.”

Such reasoning cannot stand the test of reality. Meanings are not imposed from one culture on to another, any more than one language and one culture alone possesses the secret of how to get things done efficiently.

As Arabs, I would submit, and as Americans we have too long allowed a few much-trumpeted slogans about “us” and “our” way to do the work of discussion, argument, and exchange.

One of the major failures of most Arab and western intellectuals today is that they have accepted without debate or rigorous scrutiny terms like secularism and democracy, as if everyone knew what those words meant.

America today has the largest prison population of any country on earth; it also has the largest number of executions than any country in the world.

To be elected president, you need not win the popular vote, but you must spend over 200 million dollars. How do these things pass the test of “liberal democracy?”

So rather than have the terms of debate organized without scepticism around a few sloppy terms like “democracy” and “liberalism” or around unexamined conceptions of “terrorism”, “backwardness,” and “extremism,” we should be pressing for a more exacting, a more demanding kind of discussion in which terms are defined from numerous viewpoints and are always placed in concrete historical circumstances.

The great danger is that American “magical” thinking ‘a la Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Bush is being passed off as the supreme standard for all peoples and languages to follow. In my opinion, and if Iraq is a salient example, then we must not allow that simply to occur without strenuous debate and probing analysis, and we mustn’t be cowed into believing that Washington’s power is so irresistibly awesome.

And so far as the Middle East is concerned, the discussion must include Arabs and Muslims and Israelis and Jews as equal participants. I urge everyone to join in and not leave the field of values, definitions, and cultures uncontested.

They are certainly not the property of a few Washington officials, any more than they are the responsibility of a few Middle Eastern rulers.

There is a common field of human undertaking being created and recreated, and no amount of imperial bluster can ever conceal or negate that fact.—Copyright Edward W. Said, 2003


Charlie Wilson’s war

By Omar Kureishi

I AM reading George Crile’s book My Enemy’s Enemy. The US edition is called Charlie Wilson’s War. The blurb on the dust-cover says with bubbling enthusiasm that “in the last decade, two events have transformed the world: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of militant Islam. This is the first book to explain the link between these two occurrences. It is also the inside story of CIA’s largest and most successful ever operation: the arming of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Occupation.”

The irony will not last. These Mujahideen, described in glowing terms by the author, took on the mighty Soviet Union, initially armed with Enfield rifles and an indomitable will and did what the United States and the rest of the Free World were unable to do. They sent the invading armies of the Soviet Union packing, fleeing in disarray and engineered the collapse of a superpower.

It is important to note that though funded by the CIA, not a single soldier of the present coalition of the willing took part in the military operations and not a single B-52 dropped bombs on the Soviet army.

Indeed great pains were taken to conceal the CIA’s involvement and the arms supplied to the Mujahideen had Russian markings and were obtained from countries like Israel and Egypt who had ample supplies of them, either captured in the Arab-Israeli war or given to Arab countries as military aid by the Soviet Union.

I am not that far into the book to know whether the author explains how these much acclaimed freedom-fighters have been transformed into the world’s most vile enemies and which led the United States to invade Afghanistan along with faithful allies, remove the government of the Taliban, instal a president of its choice after it bombed the living daylights of its cities, countryside and caves, causing the deaths of thousands of Afghan men, women and children. Though the war of Afghan Independence was fought mainly from the air, there were some battles fought on the ground and special forces engaged a cunning and cowardly enemy. The bravery shown against the Soviet Union had evaporated.

The book is almost certain to be made into a movie. The central character is the maverick Congressman Charlie Wilson. We are introduced to him in the following words:” When Congressman Charlie Wilson set-off for a weekend in Las Vegas on June 27, 1980 there was confusion in his mind about why he had chosen to stay at Caesar’s Palace. He was a man in search of pure decadent pleasure and the moment he walked into the hotel and saw the way the receptionists were dressed, he knew it was the right place.”

As an opening shot of a movie, it would suggest a porn film. But there was another side to Charlie Wilson, the side that tried to emulate his childhood hero, Douglas MacArthur. There are many other heroic characters in the book, all loose cannons or rogue elephants and there is a lady from Texas, Joanne Herring, “glamorous and exotic figure out of the oil-rich Texas in the 1970s and 80s”. She became Pakistan’s honorary consul in Houston. In the words of George Crile:” In the pivotal first years of the jihad, she became both matchmaker and muse to Pakistan’s Muslim fundamentalist military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, as well as to scandal prone Charlie Wilson.”

I look forward to finish reading the book and write anew on it including a very brief run-in I had with Ms. Joanne Herring. But straight away I would cast Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Charlie Wilson even if he becomes California’s governor and Ms Joanne Herring could be played by Julia Roberts with suitable make-up adjustments or a search could be launched as was done for Scarlett O’Hara.

But it is to the power failure that plunged a broad swathe of northeast United States and Canada into darkness one must turn. It certainly let’s the KESC off the hook considering that the most powerful and the richest country in the world has a Third World grid-system. In first reaction to the power failure was the immediate announcement that it was not an act of terrorism. Muslims living in the United States must have heaved not one but many sighs of relief.

To even hint that the power failure was terror would have meant that the war on terror was not being won. Initially, a blame-game was played, the Americans looking at the Canadians with accusing eyes and vice versa. But television coverage centred on the community-spirit and how the people became each others keeper. But one central fact was overlooked.

The United States spends billions of dollars on defence, its budget is greater than the combined defence budgets of the rest of the world. The war in Iraq is costing several billion dollars each month. Even in the United States, money does not grow on trees. Yet even President Bush called the power infrastructure antiquated. There is something terribly wrong in the allotment of priorities, no smart bombs, no missiles with an IQ of a genius, no nuclear-powered warships were of any use during the blackout and nor could they have prevented it.

One of the BBC reporters described New Yorkers sleeping on the streets and on benches as resembling Third World countries. True, but he could have also drawn a parallel with some of the inner cities of the United States, including New York, which resemble the slums of Third World countries. One American commentator said that the profit margin was too low for the distributors of electricity.

Lord Hutton is plodding on with his inquiry on the circumstances that led to the death of Dr Kelley. It is an inquiry that will lead to some disclosures about the ‘sexed-up’ dossiers but alas! not the weapons of mass destruction which some Houdini has made invisible.

The big blackout

By Art Buchwald

THE morning after the lights went out in New York, I got a call from Duncan. He was very excited.

“The lights just went on, and I wanted to call you.”

“I was worried about you. Where were you last night?”

“I was sleeping on the sidewalk. No one thought I was a homeless person because everyone was sleeping on the sidewalk. I had a UPS carton as a blanket.”

Duncan said, “What happened was I walked from Times Square to my apartment on 85th Street, but since I live on the 34th floor, I decided to spend the night outside under the stars.”

“Did you get much sleep?”

“Not a lot. When I got up to stretch my legs, a guy tried to steal my spot. We had an argument, and he got so mad he started to tear up my UPS carton.”

“Where was your wife in all this?”

“She was on the 34th floor, and she told me this morning she wasn’t coming down with the elevator not working because she heard Bloomingdale’s was closed down.”

“Was she mad you slept on the sidewalk?”

“She didn’t believe me. She said, ‘You probably spent overnight with an airline stewardess in a motel.’

“I showed her the bruises from the sidewalk, and she said she felt so alone. She even called a Chinese carryout shop, but they said they wouldn’t deliver anything above the 10th floor.”

I told Duncan, “We were on the Cape and saw the whole thing on television. While we were eating a lobster with Ira Harris, we all agreed New York was a disaster and were glad we weren’t there. Did you see Mayor Bloomberg?”

“We heard he was on 81st Street, but he never visited the people sleeping on the sidewalks on our block. It was very disappointing, as there are a lot of voters on our block.”

“I know you didn’t sleep a lot.”

“No, to keep up our morale we sang songs. ‘When the Lights Go Out All Over the World,’ ‘You Light Up My Life,’ and ‘God Bless America.”’

“‘Why God Bless America?”’

“You always sing ‘God Bless America’ to thank him for everything, except the blackout.”

“I’m curious. Did you blame anybody for what was happening in New York?”

“The Canadians. We decided they had a lousy grid system.” “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“One of the people on the sidewalk said he had just been to Niagara Falls and he didn’t like what he saw.”

“Well, now you are safe and sound in your own apartment. What did you do with your UPS carton?”

“I wanted to keep it as a souvenir, but my wife said she didn’t want it in the apartment. Did I tell you everything in the freezer spoiled?”

“I’ve heard of some terrible stories, but yours is the worst one.”

“I can’t wait to see you to tell you about when I went to the grocery store and they had run out of milk.”

“Well, anyhow, I’m glad you called. I’ll be able to tell everyone on the Cape what it was like.”

“You should have been there.”—Dawn/Tribune Media Services

A sea defiled, a beach destroyed

By Qazi Faez Isa

THE coast of Karachi has been decimated and we face an environmental disaster of epic proportions. A city of 13 million lies besieged and encircled in the death grip of thousands of ton of crude oil. The cleaning and restoration of the environment requires massive Federal and International help and funding, but the government and all its brassy manifestations continue to question the gravity of the tragedy. Every utterance by them affirms a complete lack of knowledge and sensitivity.

There is a huge body of knowledge waiting to be tapped regarding cleaning of oil spills and marine biologists and environmental scientists have in recent years made considerable advances in combating oil spills. By now all matters pertaining to this environmental disaster should have been handed over to a body of experts, and admirals and brigadiers relegated into the background, to provide the experts support and the resources that they require. But can one expect the armed forces personnel to surrender conquered turf back to civilians?

What little efforts are afoot inspire no confidence and may be counterproductive. For instance spraying chemicals to disperse the oil may remove it from view but would result in the oil fragmenting into small particles, which would be impossible to retrieve. The martial manoeuvre of bulldozing the beaches of oil and essential sand is tantamount to throwing the baby away with the bath water. Sand helps protect the land from sea erosion. If sand were removed in large quantities it would precipitate erosion, resulting in no beach left for cleaning or saving.

The Tasmin Spirit scraped the bottom of the sea at the entry point to Karachi port on July 27, 2003. It was never to move again. There was no leakage of the noxious cargo, carried in the vessel, either on the 27th or for many days thereafter. The maritime security agency, Karachi Port Trust, Environmental Protection Agency, governments of Sindh and Pakistan pretended that nothing had happened or else downplayed the significance of the event. A tactical decision to wish away the problem (by ignoring it) or is it demonstrative of sheer incompetence and stupidity, or both?

The maritime security agency is specifically charged with the duty to “preserve the quality of marine life” and for this purpose provides gainful employment mostly to the officers of the Pakistan Navy. Have the officers of the MSA acquitted themselves? The Karachi Port Trust is “responsible for maintaining the marine environments of the Port’s limit free from pollution” and is required to ensure that “no discharge of oily and noxious substance takes place.”

Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) with provincial agencies are required to “prevent and control pollution”, which includes “contamination of water by the discharge of emissions of effluents or waste which alter unfavourably the chemical, physical, biological, or aesthetic properties of water”.

However, the Federal Government, under which MSA, KPT and the EPAs operate, has passed the entire burden to Karachi. The federal government has not provided any resources for the clean-up operation. The pleasant greenery of Margalla inducing forgetfulness in the president, prime minister and the Cabinet to the problems of Karachi, which generates billions in taxes to help run Pakistan.

We have witnessed a complete lack of preparedness and a comatose state in marshalling resources and taking effective measures to minimize the resultant damage. A suspicion of the elementary requirement of a contingency plan has also not been exposed. Even now after the vessel has broken up, those whose charter of responsibility requires them to plan, detect, and take effective steps to contain such a problem are in a state of ennui. The only conscious decision taken is to mislead the public and downplay the tragedy. To the victims the denial of or minimizing the magnitude of a tragedy is both insulting and inhumane.

Karachi is the commercial hub of the country. A major reason for this is that it mouths Pakistan’s first and primary port. Millions of tons of cargo enter and leave Karachi Port. Karachi is home to a thriving fishing industry. On its beaches salt is gathered, turtles lay their eggs, camel owners provide ten rupee rides, romantics walk, cricket is played, boats are hired for pleasure trips and catching crabs, sailors crest the waves, swimmers frolic in them, ladies skirt the waters’ edge, beach combers collect shells, flamingoes forage and rest on their migratory route, fish and shrimp find refuge amongst mangroves and the unemployed young man lowers his bait at the edge of a nylon string wrapped around a tin box and escapes life’s snares. However, the government has set a course eclipsing the only life known to many in Karachi.

The crude that sticks to Karachi’s beaches and our lives was imported for the needs of the country but the entire cost is to be borne by Karachi’s citizenry and its environment. This is simply unfair, but then those who should have been advocating aid and assistance have buried their vacuous heads in the sand. From ‘it did not happen’ or ‘it is not serious’ follows ‘I am not at fault’ is the self-preservation logic.

The clean and starched uniforms, both khaki and white, which sit astride the MSA and KPT, would escape accountability in the absence of an environmental disaster. The armed forces personnel are neither educated nor trained to run and manage a huge commercial port. The thinking skills and vision, necessary for the success of any commercial or vibrant organization, are naturally curbed in the unquestionable hierarchical world of the armed forces.

Tanker oil spills are not uncommon. The impaling of the Exxon Valdez tanker on Bligh Reef off the remote coast of Alaska galvanized world opinion. The Valdez struck the reef and ruptured its hull on March 24, 1989 on Good Friday, which is a public holiday. It was carrying 53 millions gallons of crude oil, but due to the very prompt response and competence of the US Coast Guards and their boarding the leaking ship in less than 24 hours resulted in saving 80 per cent of the oil from the tanker.

In sharp contrast The Tasmin Spirit lay within a stone’s throw from the port of a major city. Resources were there for the asking and hiring, the same could also legally be commandeered, but precious time was squandered. Despite the tanker being afloat for 18 days only one salvage-vessel was put into operation after a few days. This salvage operation was not a MSA or KPT initiative but by private international salvers. Resultantly only about 30 per cent of the oil was saved.

It is pure luck that the tanker did not break up or leak away all its contents when the salvage operation was suspended. The cleaning operation, which followed the disaster of the Valdez engaged the services of 11,000 workers, but in overpopulated Karachi with abundant and cheap labour no comparable cleaning operation has been launched as yet.

Will only a tumble in the property prices of the plots of defence personnel situated in the coastal area of Pakistan Officers’ Defence Housing Authority galvanize a response? Will emergency be declared only once the proposed multi-billion rupee Creek City, midwifed by military commanders, is stillborn? A complete lack of knowledge of environment matters, fishing industry issues, ship industry difficulties, commercial concerns, health problems has been displayed. Whilst a man may not be an expert in every one or any one of these fields what distinguishes men of wisdom from caricatures is the knowing of ones’ limitations.

There is considerable goodwill in the global environmental community and many would come forward to help on a voluntary basis if asked. The government could also explore tapping into the global environmental fund and explore other venues offering expertise and material assistance, but all this is only possible if the problem is acknowledged. The Valdez oil was removed from the beaches by applying nitrogen-phosphorus fertilizer, which stimulated the growth of oil eating bacteria and proved very effective.

The foundation of the metropolis of Karachi lay in the development of its port. By neglecting the port we will not be able to stem the cataclysmic events that would unfold. Once the British had recognized the importance of Karachi’s port, the Karachi Port Trust Act was enacted in 1886. Then the trustees of the port consisted of four members nominated by the government and four members nominated by the chamber of commerce and the municipality, presided over by the Collector of Karachi. Not a military man among them.

In the 75 year old publication ‘Seaports of India and Ceylon’ (published in 1928) it is recorded that: “Since Government has recognized the unique geographical position of Karachi as an outlet for the whole of the surplus produce of Punjab and the adjacent territories, as a gateway to the frontiers of India and Afghanistan, as the nearest Indian port to Europe, and as an important base for trade and defence in the Persian Gulf, the capital expenditure upon the development of Karachi Harbour has been readily forthcoming.”

However, like Karachi’s beaches and coastal plains these old truths and lessons are being eroded and defiled. Over 150 years ago the British conqueror of Sindh promised that Karachi shall one day be the glory of the East, a promise our present day defenders are doing their damnedest to push into the next century.



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