On 12 December Musharraf came to the capital of Sindh and addressed editors and senior journalists of national and regional newspapers at the Governor House at Karachi.
Here are the salient excerpts from his address that I have extracted from the Daily Times’s account:
- ‘Previous governments had failed to make difficult decisions for reasons of political expediency and lack of courage’
- ‘I am ... not of that sort. I have courage to face problems squarely’
- ‘Consensus or no consensus, Kalabagh Dam will go ahead’.
(For the record a fortnight later at a convention of opposition parties a resolution was passed which stated, as reported in Dawn:
- 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.)
After over a month of snapping and snarling (I imagine that is what he feels a commando ought to do) at people expressing contrary views on Kalabagh Dam, guess what he does? He crumbles, eats humble pie and says: “Public opinion, mostly in Sindh ... is not fully on board. I respect this public opinion’ and opts instead for Basha and Munda Dams.
The General by raising the Kalabagh Dam issue managed to raise the hackles of large parts of Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan (the latter being already enraged about having to cope with Musharraf’s helicopter gunships and fighter bombers). Now it seems that his latest decision has caused his popularity to dip among some of most his sycophantic supporters from Punjab. (See: Many cabinet members oppose KBD postponement – Daily Times).
Yet, as today’s Daily Times editorial points out, there maybe a ray of good fortune for Musharraf despite having once again revealed his emblematic indecisiveness. The reversal on Kalabagh, the Daily Times believes, might lead to further disarray within the ranks of opposition parties.
The public reaction has proved that it was a good “retreat” to beat, so good in fact that it might actually be called an “advance”. ..The MQM is overjoyed and is now well set to extract as much mileage from it as it can at the expense of the PPP in Sindh. It has been distributing “sweetmeats” in the streets of Karachi saying that Altaf Hussain has “saved the people of Sindh” from disaster. As for the rest of the Sindhi opponents of the Kalabagh Dam, most of them had suggested that Basha should be built and they must now show grace by accepting what has been finally decided.
.… The PPP was at sixes and sevens on the issue. National-level leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim said quite clearly that he favoured the Skardu-Katzara Dam, most probably after hearing that the Sindhi head of the Technical Committee, ANG Abbasi, had proposed it. On the other hand, the Sindh-level leader Nisar Khuro had proclaimed that his party was opposed to any dam at all “because there is no water to store”. What stance will the PPP finally take?
The isolation of President Musharraf had prompted many to join the political bandwagon against Kalabagh Dam, including the PPP in Punjab. Since the PMLN has always been in favour of the Dam (“provided it is backed by national consensus”) it will stand to lose support at the home base if it cavils with what has been decided now. This will put the PPP, the largest party in the country, on the spot. It simply can’t afford to blunt its opposition to President Musharraf by appearing to agree. If Ms Bhutto decides the final position, she will have to cross this tough and divisive intra-party Rubicon. On the other hand, the MMA will have to rely on the trouble in FATA to retain the intensity that Qazi Hussain Ahmad seems to favour more than Maulana Fazl ur Rehman.Which view is right? Only time will tell.