Food and water


And our not-so-friendly neighbour


You can survive for approximately three weeks without food. But after three days, you need water or you’ll perish.

How difficult is it to decipher that food and water are vital for human survival? If we look at the policies adopted by the Pakistani leadership — apparently, very.

Pakistan is largely an agrarian economy where more than seventy percent of the population is somewhat dependant on agriculture. We have the highest concentration of glaciers on earth except for North and South Poles. Water gushes from world’s largest glaciers in Himalayas and Karakoram, making our land fertile. We also happen to possess the world’s largest irrigation system.

It seems like a pretty decent situation.

If need be, we should be confident in countering our increasingly hostile neighbor, India, at the behest of the abundant natural resources that our country is bestowed with. Right?

Well, not really.

Not that, like the rest of the nation, I don’t want to swoon over nature’s marvels and take pride in something that I had no contribution to. Sadly enough, both local and international organisations keep on publishing reports that bring to fore distasteful facts from under the rug.

The world’s financial experts have placed Pakistan on a list of 36 countries that face a serious food crisis. The skyrocketing prices have diminished the purchasing power of already financially distressed consumers. Pakistan has rapidly deteriorated from water-surplus to water-stressed status. Approximately 38.5 million people in our country have no access to clean and safe drinking water. Experts believe that most parts of Balochistan will run out of water in the next 10 to 12 years.

With climate change exacerbating the situation further, it will be catastrophic to turn a blind eye to the colossal socioeconomic vulnerability that Pakistan currently faces.

Given the extreme hostility that Pakistan is facing from the right side of its border, it is imperative that we re-evaluate our economic ties with the country.

For many years, the conversation in Pakistan has revolved around granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. In 2014, Pakistani government agreed to grant MFN status to India, renaming it non-discriminatory market access (NDMA). However, the final verdict was left to be finalised with the new Indian government.

The problem with such an open hearted approach is that most sectors in Pakistan are still too young to compete with the onslaught of cheaper Indian products. Indian industries enjoy huge economies of scale and can’t be prevented from dumping their products in the Pakistani market.

For the proponents of economic independence, the research of David L Rousseau that uses a dataset of international disputes from 1960 to 1988 suggests that there is no statistical evidence of the pacifying effect of economic interdependence. Indian exports to Pakistan comprise 80 percent of this bilateral trade and granting MFN status to India or agreeing to give any trade confessions will only tilt the power balance further in India’s favour.

The water sharing arrangement between the two countries doesn’t show any positive signs either. India is an upper riparian country and has substantial amount of control over the flow of water discharge to Pakistan. Exhibiting its hegemonic power, India continues to blatantly violate the Indus Water Treaty. Pakistan is not paranoid to be concerned about the more than 200 dams that India has built in the past, out of which 32 are so large that they can store enough water supply to practically destroy our entire crops during the Rabi season.

Our defunct state machinery has managed to make the impossible possible. It has brought one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources to its knees.

The country is plunging deeper into a food and water crisis and the excruciating governance failures and defunct public policies are staring at us in the face.

While our political leaders have decided to engage in the policy of appeasement by exchanging saaris and mangoes with their counterparts, we, as a nation, have to decide whether we are ever going to act before disaster strikes. Or, we will continue to be a victim of groupthink, suspend our critical judgment and absolve ourselves of our social responsibilities.