Surah Namal tells us the story of a powerful lady with her cosmic empire, Queen Bilqis of Kingdom Saba who is a highly venerated lady in Qur’an, Bible and Hebrew texts. She ruled over a formidable empire in southern Arabia (modern-day Yemen). But how did she manage to put up this humongous empire in the middle of a desert? Sabaeans built a huge dam so they might create an oasis in middle of nowhere! They built “The Great Dam of Ma’rib” around the 8th century B.C to capture the periodic monsoon rains in order to irrigate the land around the city. It was this mega structure which became the driving force behind that mighty empire.
Following the water crisis in Pakistan with national and international organisations forecasting acute water shortage in the next few years, many plans have been proposed as a solution. Here, action on one of these propositions came from a very surprising candidate, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar. He took the long-awaited step towards the building of a dam in Pakistan by initiating the collection of funds for the project. In this he was joined by the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan who appealed to the nation for donations in order to build the dams so that loans from foreign bodies were not included in this process. Currently, the economic situation of the country is lamentable; skyrocketing loans, B.O.P deficit and plummeting foreign reserves are few of the many reasons contributing to the need for this fund.
This move has not been hailed as a positive act by many within and outside of Pakistan. Some countries have also tried to intervene by aiding in the reception of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if Pakistan agrees to reject investment from its allies for projects within the country. Water, instead of being considered a vital part of the universally protected right to life of Pakistanis is an issue which is now being politicised for the benefit of others. History has shown that seldom do allies care for the interests of Pakistan as in the international political arena, each nation stands for themselves. Therefore, this move to go ahead with the construction of these dams without foreign intervention is important as it shows Pakistan to put the needs of Pakistanis first.
Under the current financial circumstances, building the dam seems like an arduous task, especially without the presence of foreign aid. This is why, we as a nation have no other option but to rely on ourselves. Indeed “God helps those who help themselves” and He bestowed His countless blessings on Pakistan; this great nation is blessed with natural resources and valuable human resource. The current plight can therefore be averted if we stand together and face it with courage.
The following are some suggestions which can be useful in generating the requisite funds to build the dams:
1. Modus Vivendi
Putting political differences aside, Prime Minister Imran Khan should collaborate with the leadership of every party for the collection of funds for the project.
2. Multi National Companies & the Corporate Sector
Pakistan has given many companies opportunities and resources to establish and generate profits and now it can use their help. It is time for multinationals to take the initiative towards aiding the project by placing a minimum contribution fee on every item they sell (e.g. cola companies can place rupees 5 or whatever amount they find suitable) which can then be donated to the dams fund.
Similarly, the Corporate sector can place a small contribution percentage on salaries of their employees.
3. Make the donation process more like a public limited company
As public limited companies issue shares in order to generate capital, an amount (economic advisory council can determine a feasible amount) can be added to every utility bill i.e. gas, water etc. After completion of the dams, the government could reimburse that collected amount by subsidizing utility bills.
4. Telecommunication Companies
Telecommunication companies can place a specific amount at every pre-paid recharge which can go to the fund.
5. Role of the Media
The media can play a vital role in building the dam by spreading awareness for the need of these dams and need for financial contribution towards them.
6. Transparency and Trust
If the government succeeds in developing a certain level of trust by eliminating the ulcer of corruption, people will be more willing to contribute towards the construction of these dams.
Building these dams is neither an exclusive responsibility of a specific political group nor would its credit go to a particular political party. It’s a national cause and every single Pakistani should act to aid in its completion. The future of Pakistan lies in the hands of Pakistanis. We can face this challenge with valor and set an example like Sabaeans did or we can keep playing the politics of hatred and damage this nation. Let’s be responsible and accept the challenge. Let’s join hands like our forefathers did in the fight for independence and help to build these dams!
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of LEAP Pakistan or Pakistan College of Law.