The Planning Commission has rejected Casa-1000, a collaborative hydroelectric project between Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the basis of the high costs and better substitutes available. The Commission should be commended for its wise decision, and while the US cannot be blamed for aiming to further its own agendas in the region, one can question why this project was being considered in Islamabad, when there are so many others that hold more promise.

Before arguing against the feasibility or practicality of CASA 1000, which naturally has many problems, it is important to look at the government’s mindset that went with accepting this project as a viable option to cater to the need of solving the energy crisis. The thought process that went behind accepting CASA 1000 was flawed to begin with. The government correctly identified that it was imperative to build more power projects in the country, a conclusion, which in fairness, even a ten-year-old could arrive to. But the main motivation for this project was the inability to complete the Iran-Pak gas pipeline due to international sanctions.

Adhering to the US’ preferred method of power generation of Pakistan does not really look to our best interests because of the inherent conflict of interest. The US is playing its own games of power balancing in the region, and any move it makes, is strategically thought out to fulfil its own agendas. For us, it was always obvious that both Iran and China would make for more fitting partners in the matter of power generation; possible projects from both have been cheaper, in many cases more fruitful and almost certainly with less security risks.

The Planning Commission is correct in outlining that projects undertaken under the Tajikistan-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Kyrgyzstan nexus will only be completely effective and secure if all parties are completely on board. But it is even more important for Afghanistan to be completely invested in a project that requires the transit of energy through its country, because of the inherent security risks. Afghanistan’s security problems will make any energy sources travelling through the country unreliable. The transit costs that Pakistan will have to pay bring the total cost up to almost five times of what other projects have quoted.

The government must be made to realise that every project with the word ‘mega’ attached at the beginning does not necessarily mean that it will be the best, or indeed even the better way forward. Deciding which projects to focus on and which to forgo should not be an arbitrary process, and should have set criteria that is transparent with experts and specialists at hand to debate the pros and cons on a case-by-case basis. The government needs to change its modus operandi from blindly signing off on shiny documents to reading the fine print.