Friday, December 30, 2005

More on my 2006 predictions

I did say that my predictions for 2006 are rather unlikely to come to pass. The stupidity of men and their inability to act on concerns larger than their own, however, cannot be underestimated. Pakistan must either move to civilian rule, with a federation, with linguistic provinces, and an American style Senate, so that the smaller provinces are not overwhelmed by Punjab; or else it can only be held together by increasingly brutal military force. But General Musharraf is unlikely to cede power.

JEHANGIRA, Dec 29: An anti-Kalabagh dam rally here on Thursday declared the controversial project “disastrous” and warned that its construction would mark the beginning of the disintegration of the federation.

“This rally warns military rulers and their stakeholders in Punjab that the construction of the so-called Kalabagh dam would result in the federation falling apart,” a resolution unanimously adopted at the rally organized by the Awami National Party (ANP) said.

The rally asked international financial institutions not to lend money for a divisive project like Kalabagh dam.

Leaders from almost all the political parties, excluding the PML and PML-N, attended the public meeting held on the Grand Trunk Road, some 60km to the east of Peshawar.

The ruling MMA represented by JUI-F Senator Maulana Gul Naseeb and Jamaat-i-Islami MNA Usman advocate threw its weight behind opponents of the Kalabagh dam.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s brother Maulana Ata-ur-Rehman also attended the rally but did not make a speech.

The PPP (Sherpao), an ally of President Pervez Musharraf and the ruling PML (Q), was represented by former federal minister Mian Muzaffar Shah who minced no words in opposing the dam.

He warned that those in the government would have to make up their mind whether they stood by their own people.

Baloch nationalists were the most strident in their criticism of the military for what they called “denying smaller provinces their rights and imposing its decisions on them”.

The lone representative from Sindh was Awami Tehrik’s Abdul Qadir who said that his province would never agree to a project that was bound to transform it into a desert.

The participants of the rally dominated by ANP’s red-shirted workers and activists of the PPP-P, Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI, shouted anti-Musharraf and anti-Kalabagh dam slogans.

The GT Road remained blocked for almost seven hours and traffic between Peshawar and Islamabad was diverted through Tarbela and Haripur.

The resolution said that the proposed dam would submerge fertile lands of the NWFP, turn Sindh into a desert and destroy the Pat Feeder system in Balochistan.

It said the smaller provinces had been compelled to think that Gen Musharraf, in collaboration with Punjab, wanted to drown and destroy the three provinces.

It said that Musharraf’s argument that Punjab would topple any government that opposed the Kalabagh dam was a testimony that he wanted to pit federating units against each other.

“It proves that Punjab is Pakistan and Pakistan is Punjab,” the two-page resolution read and warned that President Musharraf and his associates would be squarely responsible for any harm done to the integrity of Pakistan.

“We want to live like brothers in Pakistan but not slaves,” the resolution concluded.

Another resolution called for an immediate end to the military operation in Balochistan and resolution of all issues through dialogue with its genuine leadership.

ANP’s president Asfandyar Wali Khan said that it was no longer a struggle for rights but a battle for survival.

“Pakistan and Kalabagh dam cannot co-exist,” he said and asked Punjab to make the choice. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”

He warned that any attempt to thrust a decision on smaller provinces could lead to a 1971-like situation. He also warned that those who disregarded the unanimous resolutions of the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan assemblies on the issue of Kalabagh dam could prompt some people to question the 1946 Lahore Resolution that had led to the creation of Pakistan.

Asfandyar said that smaller provinces were being pushed to the wall and they had no option but to confront rather than make compromises over the issue.

He said the ANP was opposed to the disintegration of the country but if the establishment was bent upon drowning its people “then we will choose how we want to die”.