Reviving Pakistan’s Logistic Assets
Khalid Khokhar


The threatening statements by just-retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta alleging that the Haqqani network is a ‘veritable arm’ of the Pakistan ISI, caused serious aspersions on the geo-strategic scenario of the region.

US Senator, Lindsey Graham went even further in an appearance on “Fox news Sunday” implying that US should consider military action against Pakistan if it continues to support terrorist attacks against American troops in Afghanistan. These provocative announcements coming after Taliban attack on the US Embassy & ISAF HQ in Kabul on September 13, 2011 have not only disoriented the relationship between the two allies in the war on terror, but forced us to take stock of our ‘strategic assets’ in case of any US misadventure. Despite all the accusations and threats from Washington, the response of Pakistani political and military leadership has been a measured one and in line with the strategic strength of Pakistan. All Parties Conference convened by Prime Minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, has sent a clear and categorical message that 180 million Pakistanis are fully united and determined to defend the motherland and thwart any threat to the sovereignty of the country. Therefore, the Government and the Armed Forces must remain vigilant and every individual of Pakistan has to come forward by ignoring the political infightings and support its strategic assets.
The strategic communication assets that include roadways, railways, waterways and airways are of great importance for the development and stability of every sovereign country. The means of communication play a vital role in defence of the country vis-à-vis mobilization in the case of any eventuality. At the time of independence, the means of communication available with us were far less than our requirement and were highly unsatisfactory. The efforts of successive Governments to improve the means of communication borne fruit and the system improved considerably. These lifeline assets have been functioning efficiently, contributing enormously in the national economy. However, the present condition of these important departments of the country is not satisfactory due to institutional negligence and deterioration. If Pakistan wants to become a country free of poverty and economically strong, where every citizen will enjoy his or her rights and a better quality life, the development of national communication assets is imperative.
Some of the strategic assets that need the attention of the authorities concerned to undertake remedial measures to overcome the downslide are; Railway, PIA, WAPDA, KESC, Gas companies, Water management, agriculture, Pakistan Steel Mills, - to name few. Unfortunately, our industry has been almost crippled due to shortage of electricity, gas, and agriculture is destroyed either by poor management of water resource or by natural calamities like floods, earthquake, etc. According to sources, electricity shortfall (as noted on Oct 1) has reached 7,000 MW per day. Load-shedding in major cities has reached up to 12 hours, while certain rural areas are facing up to 20 hours of load-shedding a day. In Lahore, Gujranwala, Peshawar, riots broke out in protest over the long power cuts, and police dispelled the mobs by resorting to tear gas and baton charges.
Keeping in view the growing industrial and commercial requirements, the Air transport as a quick and speedy means of communication, forms the backbone of a country. PIA - once prestigious carrier fell into an organization reliant on government funds due to internal deterioration. Aircraft maintenance and airline management at PIA remain murky affairs. With so many technical landings in recent weeks at home and abroad owing to malfunctioning aircraft, there has to be some accountability mechanism in place to arrest the PIA’s nosedive. What is more worrying is that technical faults in the fleet now seem to be surfacing all too often and abruptly. Planes have had to make unscheduled landings to fix problems that have escaped detection by a ground engineering staff that has ostensibly not been given enough time to carry out a thorough inspection.
The story of Pakistan Railways is not much different than that of PIA. The Pakistan Railways network has a total of 945 stations to meet operational, safety and communication requirements. Till the 1970s, Pakistan Railways was a self-sustaining organisation run by an autonomous Railway Board. Nonetheless, a rapid decline has been observed in the performance of the organisation in 1990. Pakistan Railways is facing locomotive shortage and is operating with only 70 engines throughout the country. More than 100 trains were cancelled due to a shortage of locomotives and poor maintenance. PR has 502 locomotives out of which only 156 are in working condition whereas 142 can be repaired and only six are operational for freight services. However, the Railways need 350 locomotives to run on full capacity. The federal government has given a bailout package of Rs11.1 billion to cope up with the present crisis.
Good governance requires a vision and an executive and administrative understanding and capacity to utilize public revenues for human development such as education and health. The economic growth continued to worsen, and the country’s debt profile continued rising despite major debt relief granted by the donors in the wake of 9/11. The government needs to design an integrated transport policy where goods are transported for economical carriage. Most of the social scientists agree that the present imbroglio is due to over employment in the respective organizations characterized by political interference. Reportedly there are thousands of extra political workers who have been employed in these organizations, then how can it be profit making outfits. According to one estimate, not to talk about railways and others, more than 6000 workers are surplus in PIA only. It’s time for all the political parties to rise above their petty interests and serve the nation for which people have elected them.