Bleak energy scenario

By Dr M. Asif


RECENTLY rocketing oil prices have been consistently making the headlines across the world. Over the last two months crude oil prices have increased by more than 20 per cent and are still marching on to hit the limit of $100 per barrel. The rampant oil price is not the only headache for the energy circles.

It actually is an index to a number of problems. The hallmarks of the current global energy scenario are rapidly increasing energy demand especially from the emerging economies, rapidly diminishing oil and gas reserves, and alarming signs of climate change.

The list of issues making the energy sector all but promising also include an ever fragile situation of energy security, and energy oriented geopolitical conflicts and wars. The matrix of problems particularly applies to fossil fuels that provide 80 per cent of the world energy supplies. Fossil fuel reserves are extremely localised by their very nature. Nearly 20 countries hold around 90 per cent of the total discovered oil and gas reserves of the world.

Consequently, there are only a few countries (less than 15 per cent) in the world that are self sufficient in their energy needs. The overwhelming majority of the countries are therefore feeling threatened by the challenges facing the global energy scene. Probably there is no parameter other than ‘oil and gas’ that better binds the world together in the bracket of a ‘global village’.

The dependency of modern human life on energy is ever high. The existing situation by all standards appears to be bleak.

Some very serious threats to the global economy and infrastructure are imminent if the world fails to address the discussed energy challenges. People in developing and poor countries of the world are going to find their lives even harder.

Given the fact the fossil fuels remain to be the prime source of energy for the world, the trends with the rising oil and gas prices would be nearly irreversible. In business as usual scenario, a combination of genuine as well as artificial issues makes the situation too complicated to precisely gauge the intensity of energy challenges (most notable the surging energy prices) in future. Nevertheless these challenges can be addressed and a sustainable energy future can be assured if alternative energy systems, renewable energy resources, are actively explored.

Energy systems presently in use across the world can be classified into three main areas: fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear power, respectively contributing to 80 per cent, 13.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent of the global energy requirements.

Historically, fossil fuels have been the main source of energy supply and have served the human energy needs for thousands of years. With the advent of industrial revolution in the 19th century, fossil fuels saw their refined liquid phase, oil that is more efficient than their traditional solid phase counterparts (wood and coal).

More recently, world became familiarised with gaseous phase of fossil fuels that is ever more efficient. Nuclear power emerged on the scene towards the middle of the last century. It is however due to a number of reasons is not accessible to the vast majority of the world and has found its application only within developed countries. Renewable energy as the name implies is the energy produced from natural sources such as solar energy, wind power, hydropower, biomass and wave and tidal. These resources have the capacity to meet the present and future energy demands of the world. The development and use of renewable energy sources can enhance diversity in energy supply markets, contribute to securing long-term sustainable energy supplies, help reduce local and global environmental impacts and provide commercially attractive options to meet specific energy service needs.

Renewable energy due to its favourable characteristics is being considered as an integral part of energy strategies all over the world. Meaningful policies for the development of renewable energy are being launched across the board.

In September 2001, for example, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Directive 2001/77/EC on the promotion of electricity produced from renewables in the internal electricity market.

Member states are required to adopt national targets for renewables that are consistent with reaching the Commission’s overall target of 12 per cent of energy (and 22.1 per cent of electricity) from renewables by 2010. For the year 2020, the target is to increase the share of renewable energy up to 20 per cent of the total primary energy supply.

Similarly, at the market end, renewable energy is also breaking into. Over the last two decades solar and wind energy systems have experienced rapid growth. This is being supported by several factors such as declining capital cost; declining cost of electricity generated and continued improvement in performance characteristics of these systems.

The fossil fuel and renewable energy prices, and social and environmental costs of each, are heading in opposite directions, and the economic and policy mechanisms needed to support the widespread dissemination and sustainable markets for renewable energy systems are rapidly evolving.

Total installed renewable power capacity is approaching 200 GW as of 2006. About 40 per cent of the total renewable power capacity is installed in developing countries. Over this period, worldwide, wind capacity increased by 30 per cent and grid-connected solar PV capacity increased by an incredible 40 per cent.

These growth rates far outpace those for traditional electric power, currently 1–3 per cent in most countries, except China, where traditional power capacity is growing at rates of 7–9 per cent. Some long-term scenarios postulate a rapidly increasing share of renewable technologies made up of solar, wind, geothermal, modern biomass, as well as the more traditional hydro. Under such a scenario, renewables could reach up to 50 per cent of the total share of mid- 21st century with appropriate policies and new technology developments.

The United Nations (UN), in a recently published report suggests that investment capital flowing into renewable energy climbed from $80bn in 2005 to a record $100bn in 2006. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), renewable energy is becoming an increasingly popular commodity to invest in. Factors such as concerns over climate, high oil prices and government policies are listed as some of the top reasons driving capital into renewable energy. It is also stated that in 2006 renewable energy made up 18 per cent of the world’s investment in generating power.

The worsening situation with the energy prices and military conflicts in and around the regions rich in oil and gas indicate that the growth rate of renewable energy is set to rise in the years ahead.

The writer is a lecturer in renewable energy at the Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.

dr.m.asif@gmail.com

The matrix matters

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani


IF the commitment is to power there is every reason to participate in the elections. But if the commitment is to power as a means towards democratic realisation then one has to ask what may be gained or lost in terms of advancing that cause by any decision to boycott or participate.

The 2008 elections were only scheduled after summary judicial change facilitated a context acceptable to the person who was president then and is president now. Although things are never duplicated, the electorate has the experience of parliamentary functioning under President Pervez Musharraf’s monitoring.

He may no longer be in military command and a coup-master; but he has at least as much power over parliament and parliamentarians as the Eighth Amendment allowed presidents in the past.

Oppositional MPs if unduly circumscribed will either have to seek redress from this judiciary specifically formed to take the place of the obdurately independent judiciary or take their complaints to the COAS for his kind assistance.

Such are the democratic guarantees for those empowered by elections 2008 under a president re-elected by the outgoing parliamentarians of elections 2002. Would you take it or leave it? Is it a matrix for the democratic embryo or a mould for retaining the essence of the status quo?

There could be a distressing similarity in the outcomes of the well-meaning support Ms Bhutto is extending to democratic transition in 2007 and the support the MMA gave to the passage of the amendment that recognised the Musharraf presidency in 2002.

The MMA at least had a bird in hand in terms of provincial governments — Ms Bhutto’s are still only in the bush. She is also more vulnerable to establishment pressure than the JI and JUI-F because of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) carrot and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) stick.

The electorate recognises the predilection for witch-hunts, but considerable misgivings remain as to both of the former prime ministers’ unbridled power-lust, cronyism and avarice in office. There is a breathtaking, if paradoxical, symmetry between Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif.

If the gentleman has to live down having entered politics hitched to a COAS and ISI aims, the lady has to live down latterly connecting with them.

Mr Sharif cut the umbilical cord or had it cut for him; Ms Bhutto and the militarised establishment now appear in osmosis. Ms Bhutto has much to gain through electoral participation and Mr Sharif very little to lose through a boycott. But Ms Bhutto should consider well whether the short-term gain might not be far too ephemeral to serve even a very limited party interest. For both of them the pressure to participate comes essentially from party members who want parliamentary status.

Comparatively objective advocates of electoral participation argue that it is folly to allow competitors or opponents a walkover. The emergence of the Sharifs when the PPP did not contest is often cited. Yet that non-contestant PPP was never regarded as being out of the democratic arena; nor have the mainstream parties gained democratic muscle through having stayed in the parliamentary electoral swim in 2002.

In fact what actually facilitated the safe return of the exiled leadership was the mass turnouts and legal and journalistic solidarity manifested in support of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who resisted the administration’s attempts to intimidate him.

The educated middle class, traditionally the backbone of a democracy, is beginning to wonder whether the existing party opposition to regime politics can deliver or possibly really wants to. After all neither Ms Bhutto nor Mr Sharif wished for independence of the judiciary when in office.

If Mr Sharif’s tenure saw the Supreme Court premises stormed, Ms Bhutto evidenced keenness for definitive control over the appointment of judges. Even then people realised the significance of an independent judiciary as the last barricade against a runaway troika.

There is a profound wish -- not just for elections and the re-emergence of the constitution from a hiatus and the exit of PCO 2-judges -- but for the restoration of the superior judiciary as known and esteemed before the emergency was created on Nov 3. That step alone can mark the military’s retreat from its invasion of civil politics. If it seems too unlikely, so at one time was the prospect of either Ms Bhutto’s or Mr Sharif’s returning as hopeful prime ministers, give or take an amendment here and an amendment there.

The Sharif’s preference for a boycott may be regarded as making a virtue out of necessity, the JI’s as mere expediency, Imran Khan’s as quixotic. But political leaders outside the sick and stunted system will -- whatever their shortcomings -- remain on the lists of champions for a struggle that is bound to continue until popular aspirations find expression and democratic space. Substitutes may not be found in time for January 2008 should Ms Bhutto or Mr Sharif fail to understand the popular mood.

But political alternatives will inevitably evolve if pre-electoral compromise and post-electoral performance break faith with the people and their desire for constitutionality.

Warfare or a welfare state?

By Zubair Faisal Abbasi


THE history of Pakistan’s political economy is a history of underlying hegemonic design in capital accumulation and allocation played in a country with weak state institutions. It does not seem to be absolutely untrue, though a bit unpalatable, that Pakistan has always been in a state of either declared or undeclared war.

To put it differently, the country has always been in a war zone. Whose interests, national or otherwise, these sequentially ever-unfolding war zones have served is an interesting story to narrate. But the state of war has created near-to-total-hegemony of the war machine class or conglomerate in the politics of Pakistan.

Staying either on the frontline or the backyard of armed power struggles, the country has witnessed very effective hegemonic efforts of politico-economic interest groups between the global and local war machine designers, mobilisers, and event-managers. A systematic and ambitious politico-economic ascendancy of the war machine class in Pakistan is a phenomenon which calls for serious deliberations from both anthropological and sociological perspectives since this phenomenon has and will have serious implications for Pakistan’s existence as a state.

Regardless of differences in geographical locale or socio-economic composition, every citizen feels the pinch of the sheer politico-economic inequality between the effective power of the hegemon and the rest. The epi-phenomenon of a momentous change such as the events following Mar 9 evokes at least four ideal types of responses from the people.

Firstly, the images of change bring forth ‘change cheerleaders’ who think that from now onwards Pakistan is going to become a more livable place and the road ahead is a way to heaven, so move forward. These are people who sometimes seem to be more ambitious than what the reality of the change really justifies.

Secondly, the change perception invokes response from ‘change-pessimists’ who think that change in Pakistan is a ‘false-consciousness’, things have never changed during the last sixty years, so how can they now? Stay away and keep yourself to yourself.

Thirdly, changes cuddle the ‘change-watchers’ who think that change is possible but not inevitable. So, they mostly put forward a reform agenda and deliberate on the movement of waves of change while taking some part in the change to make it happen.

Fourthly, the phenomenon of perceptible change also gives prominence to the ‘change-averse’ group -- lifting it from lethargic dormancy. Those who belong to this group have entrenched interests in keeping control over politico-economic resources, faces, and forces. These are the people who put every kind of pressure on the agents of change be they any institution (such as the media), an individual, or a noble principle or idea (such as rule of law).

The current judicial crisis, a manifestation of sheer inequality between the departments and organs of the state, still lurking in the corridors of power and protests, has also given rise to similar response pattern.

The trajectory of the argument espoused in this article claims that the above mentioned four response-categories crosscut the traditionally defined classes and justifiably regroups the socio-political expression of society spearheaded by the lawyers and civil society. It goes beyond the urban-elite centric analysis.

Not surprisingly, a majority of the people of Pakistan extend a change-pessimist response to the forces of change. The reason, perhaps, lies with a more potent but latent reality, which has effectively delinked and, according to some experts, de-ideologised the majority in Pakistan. It has made the state of the nation melodrama irrelevant to their sense of social reality. Resultantly, change-pessimists may see a blurry picture of change but might not make an effort to fit it into a socio-political frame, as a display of a desirable image of society.

The point being emphasised is that the de-linking facet of the state — the state hegemonised by the war machine conglomerate -- has robbed most of the people of their creative abilities to articulate their interests in political and public actions for change. People seem to have been sent into exile within their own country and, even, in their own minds.

Some experts claim that the ‘class’ has not only diverted the flow of allocation of capital towards their friendly politico-economic conglomerates but has also systematically decapitalised a vast array of society in terms of its access to opportunities and resources for human capital formation. It is worth mentioning that the quality and quantity of human capital is an important factor which forms the foundations of a stable and consistent social structure guiding the political dimensions of a nation state.

The dialogue and debate on the process of delinking society from the state of the nation has actually created an invisible yet powerful vacuum which drains away the intellectual vigour from the academia, the media, and the political parties. The effect is so debilitating that they sometimes no longer aspire to meaningfully and effectively challenge orthodoxies. One such orthodoxy is ‘country is important – constitution and democracy are not’.

A delinked society, striving for transformation in systems of governance of a state, needs to re-formulate the question about the role of the state in order to challenge the above mentioned orthodoxy. This is one of the essential elements which can potentially relink society with the country (geography) through the institution of the state (governance of the geographical expression). Challenging this orthodoxy is very important if Pakistan seeks to move on from the current pathologies of politico-economic adverse selection and moral hazard. The role of the investment of politico-economic capital in developing undesirable socio-political industries is reflected in the rise of the war machine class and conglomerates. Without the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law, there can perhaps be a country but not a state.

A state is a noble step forward which gives meaning to a country and sense of belongingness to its inhabitants. If at all a State, without a constitution, exists, it is a predatory or a captured state which loses the credibility and fairness required for administrative autonomy and juridical legitimacy to arbitrate and execute arbitration between different interest groups.

Without respect for the constitution, one may have a class which keeps control of a geographical expanse – call it a country — manages its economic resources and keeps in contact with other like-minded players at the national and international levels. But the class effectively alienates ‘my dear countrymen’ from the state forcing them into exile within the boundaries of a country. The last sixty years of Pakistan have been spent by the country in the state of warfare and sending people into exile to become change-pessimist and strengthening the hands of the change-averse.

The killing phrase is, ‘it can’t happen here’ which we hear most. We need to put forth the question of the role of the state and seek answers while trying to drift away from the war machine dominated militarised ‘warfare’ state to ‘welfare’ (developmental) state. The surest and most effective path towards the ‘developmental state’ is respect for the Constitution, fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution, and allowing the system to work as is envisaged in the Constitution and not destroying it by ‘friendly-fire’.

A sculptor of substance

By Niilofur Farrukh


ICON in the media parlance refers to a charismatic and popular figure often transformed into a larger than life figure on the ‘drawing board’ of marketing gurus. Today sports, cinema and music talent is elevated into megastars with a media aggression that makes reality irrelevant.

This however promises no permanent place under the strobe lights in the fast moving world where each sound byte has a price tag and ‘change’ is the engine that generates big money. Very soon the old icon becomes media fodder in a seamless high energy charge of publicity.

How do we recognise a hero in such a milieu? The very word hero has different connotations for different generations. The cynical young are too impatient to invest trust and optimism in a mortal from the past.

The concept of a hero connects the older generation to the comfort of a pre-spin age. To them heroism embodies a greatness defined by proven courage and moral strength which translates into an inspirational force, gives faith and energises potential.

One such hero is Shahid Sajjad, a sculptor of substance who has lived quietly amongst us for many decades. Shahid is a modern thinker with the soul of a humanist, and a true heir to this land’s civilisational legacy. He is someone who does not feel the urgency to prove his global credentials, for self- knowledge to him connects all people at a very elemental level without the strident trends of globalisation. He has spent a lifetime discovering himself through his work and learning a vocabulary to carry out a visual conversation with others.

Born in 1936, Shahid’s life runs parallel to Pakistan, a county he came to with his parents. When the young country’s offered hospitality and the promise of liberty, he was grateful and learnt to be content with few creature comforts. He was forced to give up school in grade eight because there was no money to spare after the death of his father. This did not however curtail his self-education as he quotes from Francis Fukuyama and Faiz Ahmed Faiz with equal ease.

At a young age Shahid Sajjad learnt to be self-reliant, have confidence in his natural talent and optimise meagre resources, these lessons learnt early in life give him the fearlessness to carve a distinct path.

In 1963 he created an opportunity for himself by writing to a Japanese manufacturer of motorbikes with a request for a machine to tour the world. This tour became a turning point in his life as it exposed him to the art of Gauguin, the great adventurer and painter, at Louvre in Paris, which found resonance with his own free spirit.

A few years later he was to discover the unspoilt paradise of Chittagong Hill Tracts where Shahid Sajjad spent several years with the Chakma tribe who taught him to live with nature and trust intuition. When the life-size carvings executed in East Pakistan, were finished and exhibited in Karachi in 1974 it made the art pundits sit up and take notice of the artist.

This was a seminal endeavour as no Pakistani sculptor had attempted life-size figures in wood before.

It was particularly bold in a country where three-dimensional figurative art is considered taboo in the light of orthodox interpretations of Islamic injunctions against idolatry. Figurative sculpture closely associated with temple art in South Asia has had little patronage in the cultural mainstream but Shahid Sajjad, in the last thirty years with a large corpus of sculpture, has been instrumental in helping art audiences to de-link sculpture from idols and idolatry and accept it as a purely creative expression.

Throughout the 1980s Shahid Sajjad defied Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation edicts negating figurative art and even managed to subvert the regime’s campaign by creating a mammoth figurative mural in bronze ‘Cavalry Through The Ages’ for the very institution whose head denounced representation of the human form.

Lack of formal art education forced the sculptor to acquire knowledge and skills from unconventional sources. He learnt wood carving from the Chakma artisans and has continued to improvise with modern tools. Whatever the skills he applies to shape his forms, it is ultimately subservient to the fine textures he painstakingly etches on the surface like a personalised script. His fine chisel cajoles the wood to produce complex and sensitive surfaces with equal ease on tropical species from Chittagong and hardy Himalayan timber from Northern Pakistan.

When Shahid Sajjad turned to bronze casting both cost factors and curiosity made him turn to the ancient lost wax technique that created the elegant Chola bronzes of South India. Through endless experiments this technique was expanded in his studio to cast larger pieces.

For technical advice he sought the help of Akio Sato, a colleague in Japan.

Shahid’s exploration of these skills is particularly valuable for its impact on sculpture in the country. It reclaimed the space from colonial art education that relegated local craft skills to a subaltern position. Shahid Sajjad’s revitalisation of craft skills and their integration in his timeless vocabulary has inspired young sculptors in wood.

When Shahid Sajjad, a man who shuns limelight, was asked to speak at the launch of the book authored by Dr Akbar Naqvi on his life and work at the National College of the Arts Auditorium, it was a moment of special significance. Life had come full circle for a young man who once could not afford to attend this premier art college, now at the age of 71 he was being honored by the very institution.

He stood there as a Fellow of NCA (conferred in 1996) and was acclaimed by his peers with a retrospective publication, a multiple honour never given before in the history of the institution.

The visual art community joined the nation in acknowledging the talent and conviction with which Shahid Sajjad changed the direction of his life, from one of a destitute youth to an influential leader.

His guiding vision has been a simple one he lives modestly and with social responsibility. Our hero has demanded very little from his country and yet has given back much as a role model of innovation, excellence, courage and intellectual honesty.

asnaclay06@yahoo.com



© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2007

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