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The Express Tribune Editorial 1 July 2020

Water shortage


In the megacity of Karachi, a considerable proportion of drinking water is supplied over ground as opposed to underground as is the norm in most of the world. Like the past many years in hot summer months, most city residents are again experiencing an acute shortage of water. Over the years, the situation has only been deteriorating. Karachi suffers from water shortage all around the year though. A combination of power and water shortage makes life miserable for the people. The past few years have seen some improvement in power supply, but water shortage refuses to go. At present the city needs 12,00mgd water but officially it is supplied 550mgd only.
Out of this more than 100mgd is lost due to leakages and theft. Even when water shortage is at its peak during the hot summer months, it is available in sufficient quantity, if not in plenty, through tankers and in cans. Only those who have money can afford to have water, and others are compelled to buy it to stay alive. There are many localities in the city where residents have not received a single drop of water in their home taps for years, yet they go on paying KWSB bills for fear of disconnection. The bills keep growing.
The K-1V project, aimed to augment water supply to the city, was planned in the early 2000s. It was expected to be completed in 2019. In 20 years, it has not made much headway on the ground even though its paperwork continues to grow because of endless revisions of cost and changes in design. The Sindh government in its budget for 2020-21 has allocated a mere Rs150 million for the K-1V project. Initially, the scheme was expected to cost Rs25.5 billion. Government officials continue to blame one another for the delay. Informed circles say the project might not be put on line in another 20 years because of the involvement of vested interests.


Budget approval


That the federal budget has been passed by the National Assembly is no news. If there is anything that came out as news from the assembly’s budget session on Monday, it is the score line. The government managed 160 votes against the opposition’s 119 at the time of passage of clause nine of the Finance Bill 2020-21. And the same turned out to be the final score, as the opposition — having been defeated during clause-by-clause vote — did not insist for a vote at the final passage. As the exit of the four-seat BNP-M from the ruling coalition a few days back reduced its strength in the National Assembly to 180 seats, it means that as many as 20 treasury members did not vote for budget approval.
However, this 41-vote majority could have shrunk further if an eleventh-hour dinner party, thrown by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had not managed to win back several disgruntled party colleagues and allies. There are reports of senior most PTI members reaching out to a group of more than a dozen party colleagues — who had refused to attend the dinner — with assurances on behalf of the Prime Minister as regards some unfulfilled promises. Still, the number of votes secured on the budget stood 12 short of the magical mark of 172 that ensures simple majority in the 342-strong lower house and that is needed by the PM to stay on in the coveted office in case a no-confidence motion is table by the opposition.
Should this electoral equation worry the PM? Yes it should, given the poor performance of his team in almost every area — be it the economy, governance or social service delivery. The best way for the PM to keep the ruling coalition intact is to deliver, especially with regard to the economy, rather than succumbing to the fair and unfair demands of his coalition partners every now and then. Has the PM forgotten that during his cricket days, he would let his props — bat and ball — do the talking?


Foiled terror attack


It could have turned into a big tragedy if our security personnel had not sprung into timely action to overcome the four terrorists who tried to storm the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi on Monday. A sub-inspector of police and three private security guards laid down their lives, but not before the four terrorists had been downed a little farther from the main gate of the stock exchange building. The terrorists attempted to make it to the crowded hall of the bourse with the ill intent of doing something big. But what could have caused a hell lot of harm was brought under control in an operation — led by the Rangers and Sindh Police’s Rapid Response Force — that lasted only eight minutes. The biggest heroes though were the security guards at the stock exchange because if they had not held off the initial assault, we can only imagine how many of the 6,000 people inside the building would have left in body bags.
The attack was the first major terrorist incident in Karachi since the November 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate claimed by Baloch insurgents. Reports suggest that this one was also orchestrated by the Balochistan Liberation Army, a banned terrorist outfit with ties to Indian and Afghan intelligence. Some 10 days back — on June 19 to be exact — there had been near-simultaneous attacks on Rangers officials in three different cities of Sindh. Three Rangers men were martyred in these attacks that may have been an attempt to divert attention from a bigger game plan.
The failed attack on the bourse, meanwhile, endorses intelligence reports about the presences of terrorist sleeper cells in the city. Already rumours are rife that the attack may also be linked to India’s regional goals. After all, after being thrashed by China, India knows it is in no position to directly attack its neighbour to the north. The attack targeted the financial never centre of the country, equated by the Sindh CM with the nine eleven attacks on the World Trade Centre. Conversely though, the stocks actually closed up by 0.71%, and the market was one of the best performers in Asia on the day. Kudos to our security forces who made yet another gallant contribution towards the safety and security of our country and the people.
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