The RPP playout


It’s just past the too-soon point to comment on the RPP verdict. Granted, the project had weight, at least in theory, both when Gen Musharraf’s team okayed it, and later, when the present dispensation started doling out invites. And true, the court’s precedent sets a landmark. There will be better checks and balances next time. In fact, the entire risk management exercise might undergo thorough overhaul. Yet there is an even more important angle to the story. It is even more significant to see how justice is now meted out to those at the centre of what must qualify as a grave crime against the country – exploiting national energy shortage to enrich a corrupt, powerful few.
And the novelty aspect of the ruling notwithstanding, initial signs are not very pleasant. It does not exactly build confidence when the only person crying hoarse before anybody who’d listen to cease and desist – the finance minister of this government’s first year – is put on the ECL pending investigation. Even more important, though, is charting a way out of the present quagmire. Energy shortage is at the centre of all things preventing a slow, sustainable pullout of stagflation. It does not let industry function. It has slowed down manufacturing. It has even compromised 40 per cent export output in the outgoing fiscal. In households, consistent power outages have enraged the public enough to take to the streets, with rioting threatening assuming disturbing momentum.
In such times, merely identifying all that is wrong, though essential, is an incomplete exercise. Now that the court has indulged in the matter, it must extend its writ to the maximum, exerting whatever pressure at its disposal to get concerned quarters to chalk out the most cost effective way forward. Special care must be taken to weed out whatever irregularities have already entered the post-verdict narrative. And removing the good former finance minister’s name for the list is a good point to start.