As is only to be expected from any incoming government – be it about to provide a repeat performance or otherwise – the grandiose plans formerly announced in anticipation of garnering votes, will prove to be the initial testing ground on which the nation’s collective trust, or mistrust as the case may be, will be either substantiated or fall by the wayside, along with countless previous governmental promises that have been nothing but empty buckets during a drought when put to the test and, the test is on!Wisely, Nawaz Sharif, when speaking in Lahore a few days ago, admitted what everyone already knows: there will be no sudden end to unprecedented loadshedding.He did, however, proffer the tempting carrot of a three-year timeframe - this extended from the pre-election promise of a few months - during which, with his personal involvement and monitoring, wrongs will be put right and the light will then be able to shine 24/7 365 days a year if that is what the populace so desires. But there is a catch, which the eminent gentleman appears to have completely overlooked and a cure that was, quite sensibly given his position, not mentioned at all.Top of the list of reasons as to why the country currently - no pun intended - has so little power – this time the pun is more of a double entendre - is that consecutive governments have not paid the oil and gas companies supplying the necessary inputs to national power producing units, the staggering billions of rupees they are owed with, according to various sources, a first tranche of Rs22 billion needing to be handed over right now. An amount that the caretaker government did not, for questionable reasons, see fit to release and it should be a matter of concern that if, as is understood, Rs22 billion was available then, where on earth has it suddenly vanished now?If the new government really has the economic acumen it boasts of and has the well being of the nation in mind, not only should it speak openly and honestly on this matter, but immediately set about scheduling some kind of payment formulae that is agreeable to all concerned. An agreement that would go a long way towards ending loadshedding, at least reducing it to a bearable degree until all outstanding financial matters are resolved.It is also highly pertinent to wonder why successive governments expect the nation to gullibly swallow the various excuses and empty platitudes routinely handed out to it about loadshedding caused by their own ineptitude, and even more pertinent to wonder why so many, including those who should know better, merrily swallow such indigestible ‘none–sense’ hook, line and sinker, which is where the ‘catch’ to the once again promised ‘solution’ enters the equation.The nation is told, over and over again, that it is necessary, on an urgent basis, to invest in the construction of more dams for the combined purpose of water storage and production of hydro-electricity and that there is an equally urgent need for additional nuclear and coal-fired power stations. And, while it is an accepted fact that power production needs to increase in line with the ever-increasing population explosion, the means of achieving ‘power for the people’ must be considered, and then implemented, in a sensible, sustainable manner.Leaving aside the understandable construction of more dams - although it makes more sense, for many reasons including that of flood control, to construct a large number of small dams than a very small number of large ones - the nuclear option should, in light of the Fukushima disaster which is still seriously impacting Japan and having continued fallout on the ocean and a number of other countries too, be completely ruled out as a nuclear disaster, in any shape or form, is the very last thing Pakistan needs now or ever. This brings us to the currently ‘most favoured’ option of, as just promised by Nawaz Sharif, the construction, within three years, of additional coal-fired power stations fuelled by indigenous coal reserves that, whilst acceptable to some, is certainly not acceptable to anyone who cares for the long-term survival of Pakistan, its people and the planet as a whole.Coal-fired power is, no two ways about it, ‘dirty power’ and the toxic emissions from coal-fired power stations pollute the atmosphere, the environment and speed up the already escalating climate change from which Pakistan is already suffering and suffering very badly indeed. Melting glaciers, crazy weather patterns swinging from suffocating heat to unseasonable lows, from drought to flood and so on, are adversely affecting what is an increasingly tenuous, indigenous food chain indeed. And, according to international climate change scientists, Pakistan is firmly on the road to hunger as it is – speeding up the arrival of this inevitable, unless serious action is instigated right now; catastrophe is absolute madness and should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to occur. There is also, certainly in respect of Thar coal, the environmental hazards of opencast mining, its knock on effect on public health and the astronomical cost of transforming what is ‘high moisture’, extremely low grade coal into usable gas via the process of gasification and all of which, with or without international investment, will cost a fortune and not simply in terms of cash.The obvious answer, aside from clearing its shockingly outstanding bills, is for the government to launch both large and small scale solar power production units - with wind power installations and biogas units for back up where suitable - for which, the global investment situation being as it is, international financial assistance would, if required and it probably would be, certainly be forthcoming.‘Dirty power’ – in an incredible array of guises – is something of which the nation has had far more than enough. Coming clean could very well save the day.

The writer is author of The Gun Tree:  One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.