Haunted by an exile
Senator Farhatullah Babar
"THE NEWS" dated April 25, 2003
One would have thought that the formation commanders meeting
last Tuesday would discuss issues of national security in the wake of war on
Iraq and threats hurled by the Indian foreign Minister. Instead, General
Musharaff gave the scores of generals attending the meeting a long lecture
on how Benazir Bhutto had swindled money in the private power projects.
This is not the first time he has almost compulsively taken a dig at her.
The last time he compulsively derided Mohtarma Bhutto was at public meetings
and not at the meeting of formation commanders.
At every public meeting in the run up to referendum the General dressed in
full military regalia made colourful by wearing funny caps and flanked by
corps commanders would lambaste Mohtarma Bhutto for what he used to say
'mega corruption in the independent power projects ignoring the cheap hydel
power for commissions and kickbacks and commissions'.
Then he saw in Benazir Bhutto the greatest threat to his fraudulent
When he 'swept' the referendum hands down he liked to believe that painting
black the former Prime Minister had paid off the dividend.
A year later now, the General sees in her the greatest threat to the LFO,
the National Security Council and the plethora of amendments aimed at
strengthening his person rather than democracy, the parliament and the
Perhaps he was not sure whether the commanders also shared his passion for
personal power through the LFO. So it was necessary to paint Bhutto, the
chief opponent of LFO, black before them.
The General believes that painting Ms Bhutto black before the people won him
the public support in the referendum. To paint her black before the
formation commanders was therefore necessary to win their support in his
battle for the LFO.
How strange are the illusions by which men, even those wearing uniform,
The Bhutto government had purposely ignored cheap hydel power and built
thermal plants in the private sector and gave them very high tariff only for
commissions and kickbacks, he has been saying.
But such diatribe before poor and illiterate masses herded to the public
meetings by district nazims is one thing; its repetition before a formal
meeting of formation commanders quite another. The commanders are not as
captive an audience as those herded to public meetings by the nazimeen.
Was there no commander among those attending the meeting to ask; 'Sir, it is
right that Benazir did not add a single kilowatt of hydel power to the grid
only to make a quick buck in private thermal projects but how many kilowatts
of hydel power have we added to the national grid during the last three
The PPP government of Benazir can even claim to have launched the over 1300
MW Ghazi Barotha hydro Power Project and arranged funding from international
donors for it but what has the Musharraf government to show?
High tariff? The tariff was recommended by a sub-committee of the Task Force
headed by Mr. Razzaq Dawood, the person chosen by general Musharraf as his
Did the General ever ask even once his erstwhile commerce minister the facts
about the tariff?
Corruption? All IPP's had a uniform tariff and contract terms applicable to
every investor whether foreigner or local, whether affiliated with the PPP
or to the opposition.
There were no discretionary powers under the 1994 power policy in the award
of IPP contracts to any one on terms favorable than others. All agreements
pertaining to power purchase, fuel supply and project implementation were
standardized and uniformly applied to all investors.
When no extra concessions could be offered why would any investor pay
Prior to the 1994 Power Policy, each investor negotiated the tariff and the
fuel supply terms on project-to-project basis creating doubts about
Nine letters of intent were issued for projects prior to the PPP government
in 1993. Each was allowed different tariff and fuel supply terms depending
on who was negotiating with whom and where.
The contracts had a clause that if at any time corruption is proved then the
entire project will be taken over by the government without compensation. If
the projects were laced with corruption why the military government restored
all the IPPs instead of taking advantage of this clause?
The military government renegotiated different tariff terms with the IPP's
but has not made public the revised contract documents.
Chairman NAB does not tire of claiming that a copy of all contracts above 50
million rupees will have to be furnished to the NAB. How many of the
renegotiated tariff terms have been furnished to the NAB?
Does Chairman NAB know the story of an IPP namely M/s Rousch Power Limited
located near Multan? Running on furnace oil it came on line and began
producing power about two years ago in 2001. Soon after commissioning,
however, M/s Rousch ran into financial trouble and began incurring huge
losses and was to go bankrupt.
The chartered accountants certified that in view of accumulated losses of 2,
854 million rupees, which the company had incurred, 'future operations are
Under the terms of agreement the government should have taken over the plant
and run it itself without compensation to the shareholders. It should then
have converted the plant from furnace oil to gas and thus brought to the
national kitty windfall gains of several hundred million dollars.
For some unexplained reasons the Finance Ministry did not exercise the take
over option and quietly allowed Rousch power project to switch to gas,
guaranteed it huge quantities of cheap gas enabling the company to make an
easy fortune - all at the expense of the poor people of Pakistan.
But we know that NAB will not be able to look into it. After all NAB is not
for eliminating corruption. It is merely a political arm of the government.
Hydropower development in the country has been held up not because of
Benazir Bhutto but due to lack of consensus among provinces for construction
of large dams. Remember the backtracking by Nawaz government soon after
announcing to build the Kalabagh dam in the euphoria of atomic tests?
Even the constitutional guarantees to safeguard interests of smaller
provinces have failed to persuade the provinces to agree to Kalabagh dam
saying how they can have faith in constitutional guarantees when the
Constitution itself has been repeatedly trampled under the boots.
It is due to this mistrust and not due to Benazir Bhutto that hydro
potential has not been fully exploited.
That is why the power plants built during the last 25 years are thermal
based. That is why all the projects that WAPDA and KESC had approved for
undertaking in late 80's and early 90's were not hydro but thermal based.
And that is also why last year WAPDA wrote to the federal government to be
permitted to set up thermal based power projects in the private sector.
The Benazir government at least succeeded in building consensus on Ghazi
Barotha hydro project and made a policy decision to set up thermal plants in
the private sector.
The World Bank hailed that policy as a model, to be followed and adopted by
other countries describing it "as one of the -----if not the ----- most
straight forward and well thought over policy in place in any developing
Why in spite of such formidable facts the General chose to give an entirely
inaccurate account to the meeting only to run down the former Prime
It will be uncharitable to say that the chief had a dim view of the wisdom,
knowledge and judgment of his formation commanders and thought he could thus
mislead them for advancing his own political ambitions..
The only logical explanation is that the chief continues to be haunted by
the leader of masses even though she is living in exile for the last four