Energy is part and parcel of every aspect of life as well as backbone of a country’s economy. Pakistan is lagging behind in this area despite of rich reserves of raw energy, but there is dire need for the investment and proper use of these reserves for driving the wheel of economy. Present energy scenario of the country, its available resources and their potential towards the solution are addressed in this article.
Solution to Energy Crisis
There are different lines of argument on the direction the region’s energy partnerships and relationships will take. Some observers argue that as a result of broad energy needs, wider regional cooperation will develop. Others, however, see a continuation in the historic divisions, viewing stronger Sino-Pakistani energy relations as curtailing Pakistan’s energy relations with India—and by extension with South Asia as a whole. A continuation of this historical trajectory cuts Pakistan off not only from possible energy supplies from India, but also from longer-term regional projects focused on hydropower development and gas from countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Ultimately, Pakistan must prove it is a worthy ally to the key players in the region. This is going to require a lot of work, and also confidence on Pakistan’s part. The term unreliable allies could be the tagline for Pakistan’s history; so often allies have pledged assistance, only to pull the plug at a later date. The reasons for this are myriad, ranging from geopolitics and the domestic politics of a particular country to Pakistan’s own problems and political land-scape. Some outcomes have been fully justified, others highly questionable. The fact remains, however, that Pakistan has few real allies. And as battered and bruised as it is, Pakistan needs to overcome past experiences, and recreate itself as a dependable, trustworthy partner. This is going to be difficult for Pakistan in relation to its allies, let alone its enemies.
Steps to take
What would be more positive for Pakistan would be the development of a more multi-polar system? Mutual energy need may help dissipate traditional divisions between countries. This is certainly the best-case scenario for Pakistan, and one that curtails the gain-and-loss pattern of its current energy relationships. To that end, the following recommendations for Pakistan are made:
- Pakistan needs a new and workable national energy policy. Its current policy document is unresponsive, only partially implemented-implementable, and at the mercy of competing bureaucratic interests. Attempts to formulate a comprehensive, single plan have so far largely failed. As such, it should not be underestimated how difficult this task will be for Pakistan.
- Alongside this, Pakistan needs far better management of the energy sector, which can only be achieved by streamlining the responsibilities and number of ministries and other government departments involved in policymaking and implementation. Tensions between the federal and provincial governments also require attention.
- Domestically, Pakistan needs to address key issues like eliminating circular debt, dismantling the fuel subsidy structure, tackling transmission and distribution losses, addressing cultural change to counter theft and nonpayment, and introducing new legislation, particularly energy efficiency standards and regulation.
- Poor security in energy locations is a major problem, acting as a deterrent to both improvements to existing infrastructure and to development of new exploration and extraction. The civilian leadership needs to pay particular attention to this and will have to work with the country’s security apparatus to create a more comprehensive policy addressing the underlying factors to poor security in the energy-rich areas.
- Pakistan needs to make a realistic assessment of its energy mix and seek advice on how best to develop this. Some changes will be relatively straightforward—such as providing a well-head price for gas, which producers would greatly welcome—others far more difficult, like improving security in areas like Balochistan and KPK.
- As part of these moves, Pakistan needs to reconsider its use of oil and nuclear power. Its own oil supplies are difficult to extract, and the international price of oil will only increase, placing extra burden on the current account through inflated energy imports. Pakistan also faces many financial and political obstacles to developing its nuclear power sector. Nuclear power will remain as a part of the energy mix, but it must realize that the sector will not deliver to the degree that it envisages.
- Instead, Pakistan should place greater attention on the domestic extraction of coal and, to offset the emissions aspect of this, concentrate on the growth of greener energy options, ranging from hydropower to renewables.
- Regionally, Pakistan must cultivate stronger energy relations with its neighbors. There are a number of options, from simple cross-border energy trading to wider cross-regional gas pipelines and electricity transmission networks. In a bid to pursue regional aspirations, Pakistan should seek to make greater use of forums like SAARC, and in turn, try to elevate the issue of energy security on each group’s agenda. Given Pakistan’s desire to fashion itself as an energy corridor and hub, improving regional coordination is key.