Another policeman killed as bloodshed continues

KARACHI: A policeman and two other people were killed in separate acts of target killings and violence in different parts of the metropolis on Saturday.

A police constable was shot dead in an act of target killing near Ghani Chowrangi in Jahanabad area of Pak Colony. Police officials said that at least three policemen were deployed in the area following the increase in incidence of crime near Ghani Chowrangi. They said that the deputed policemen were busy in their routine duty when unidentified motorcyclists opened fire at them.

Resultantly, a police constable, later identified as 32-year-old Muhammad Faisal, was shot at multiple times while the other officers remained unscathed. Faisal, son of Abdul Hameed, died on the spot. The body was taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for autopsy. Police officials said that the deceased was a resident of Singu Lane, Lyari, and was posted at the Pak Colony police station for the last two years.

In a separate incident, a young man was gunned down in Yousuf Goth near Bhains Colony Morr within the jurisdiction of the Shah Latif police. The deceased was shot multiple times and died on the spot. The body was taken to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for post-mortem where he was identified as Wajid, 23, son of Ghulam Muhammad. Police officials said that the deceased was sitting at his friend’s chicken shop when unidentified men shot and killed him. The motive behind the incident is believed to be personal enmity. The police are further probing the case.

Meanwhile, the body of a paan shop vendor was found in Old City within the limits of the Napier police. The deceased has yet to be identified. Police officials said that the vendor was killed after being kidnapped by unidentified persons, adding that the kidnappers tortured him to death and later dumped the body. The corpse was moved to Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth for identification after medico-legal formalities were completed at Civil Hospital, Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2014.

Ryder Cup: Eldest captain Watson seeks redemption

EDINBURGH: Tom Watson, the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history at age 65, will serve as an inspirational leader for a United States golf team seeking redemption at this year’s Ryder Cup.

Watson, who came within a shot of a stunning triumph at age 59 in the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, captained the most recent US Ryder Cup victory on European soil in 1993.
US player Jordan Spieth was two months old when Watson guided the Americans to that victory at the Belfry in England.
But the Americans have lost seven of the nine trophy matchups with Europe since then, including a 14 1/2-13 1/2 heartbreaker at Medinah in 2012 thanks to a last-day singles rally by the visitors.
Watson will try to fan the flames of that frustration into motivation when the US team, including seven members of the 2012 lineup, tries to reclaim the Cup next week at Gleneagles, Scotland.
“My job as a captain is to inspire them if I can and the motivation is there, I can tell you without hesitation,” said Watson .
“That was a hard loss for the American players and it still sticks with a lot of them. They want to make amends for what happened at Medinah two years ago.
“It left a pit in my stomach, just a hole in my stomach, after our defeat at Medinah,” said Watson .

“I don’t think there’s going to be much motivation necessary, maybe just a word or two about we don’t want this to happen again will maybe carry them over the hump and they may make a few more putts when they need to.”
Watson, an eight-time major champion and five-time British Open winner, will surpass the Ryder Cup captaincy age mark of John Henry Taylor, who led the British side to victory in 1933 at age 62.
And Watson confronts the age question by citing the experience he has with winning in Europe.
“To have that respect and the trust from the players that we know what’s going on, can help them, the age difference actually it’s kind of like a professor,” said Watson .

“You go to learn from a professor. He’s been there. He knows. He has the experience. He has the knowledge.”
One thing Watson knows is Scotland, a land he loves and whose fans love him. Expect Watson to receive cheers even as the American team will face spectators who are clearly against them.
“I love it there. I love the way they love the game,” said Watson of Scotland. “The Scottish people, they are knowledgeable. They understand the game and of course they are going to be very partisan. We know that.”
PGA of America president Ted Bishop says Watson has made an impression upon his players in the past year.
“What has impressed me more than anything has been the effort that Tom has made to get to know the players, play with the players,” said Bishop.
“At times he’s beaten some of our players at these events. But I think that gives him a great amount of credibility with the players and we are certainly very confident of his ability to lead our team.”
Watson was on a hunting trip when Bishop called and had him call back later that same day.
“I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call,” said Watson.

Watson, who ranks sixth on the all-time major win list, won the 1977 and 1981 Masters, the 1982 US Open and the British Open in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.

Painting a picture: Relief camp in Ghotki turns out to be only a ‘show’ of flood survivors

SUKKUR: The relief camp in the Niaman Landhi area of Ghotki set up on Saturday especially for the visit of high-ranking officials was wrapped up soon after the camera lights switched off and the helicopters flew away.

Even though there were only low-level floods in Sindh that submerged only 20 per cent of the katcha area, these flood survivors were placed at the relief camp for officials to appreciate the preparations done for the floods that were expected to hit Sindh, after creating havoc in the Punjab.

On Saturday, Pakistan Peoples Party patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was visiting Qadirpur Loop Bund, which is the second line of defence against the rising river level.

The young politician was greeted by former chief minister Ali Muhammad Mahar, who presented a tradition Sindhi topi and an Ajrak to him. Bilawal, who was accompanied by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, opposition leader Khursheed Shah and others, then distributed bags of ration among the residents posing as flood survivors. He was also given a briefing on the water levels by Guddu Barrage chief engineer Dhano Mal.

An official present on the site claimed, however, that the relief camp was wrapped up soon after the officials departed. Only 366,000 cusecs of water had entered Sindh at Guddu Barrage and it had only managed to submerge 20 per cent of the katcha area between Guddu and Sukkur barrages, said an official.

The opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, Shaheryar Mahar, claimed VIP movements are nothing more than a ‘drama’. “The Sindh government has released Rs10 billion as emergency fund for the repair and maintenance of bunds,” he told The Express Tribune. “All these relief efforts and the visits are being carried out to justify the funds.”

Mahar felt that the irrigation department already receives up to Rs12 billion for the repair and maintenance of bunds.”What was the need of allocating an emergency fund?” he asked. He said that the clearance of silt on the off-shoots of River Indus has not been done for the last many years due to which capacity of these distributaries has reduced by 50 per cent.

The Salinity Control and Reclamation Project, which is responsible for controlling the water table, appears dysfunctional for many years, due to which water table is on a constant rise, Mahar added.

Better safe than sorry

Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah spoke to the media in Sukkur, where he explained why the government was so actively preparing for the floods. In 2010, irrigation experts had informed that 900,000 cusecs of water will enter Sindh but 1.25 million cusecs ended up coming to the province, he said. This year, we were expecting 800,000 cusecs so we made all arrangements to cope with a high-level flood, he added.

The Indus River System Authority is responsible for maintaining and repairing the bunds, but they are not doing it, Shah claimed, adding that the Sindh government is taking care of the bunds. The CM stated that some people have been affected in the katcha areas and the Sindh government will compensate their losses.

During his visit to Sukkur on Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had reprimanded the provincial irrigation authorities for misquoting the amount of water discharge in Sindh. “When a large volume of water was dispersed in the Punjab due to various breaches, then how can Sindh receive 900,000 cusecs?” he had asked. The Sindh officials informed him they were just being cautious.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2014.


To dam or not to dam? Experts ponder flood strategy

ISLAMABAD: Energy-starved Pakistan relies on a multitude of dams and barrages to prevent Himalayan rivers from flooding and help meet its power needs, but the government’s failure to prevent disaster four years running is making some experts question their utility.

Every year since 2010, which saw the worst floods in the country’s history, Pakistan has experienced catastrophic inundations that kill hundreds and wipe out millions of acres of prime farmland, harming the heavily agrarian economy.

Starting when the country was still a part of British-ruled India, engineers embarked upon ambitious projects to harness the water that flows from Kashmir through the length of the country to the Arabian Sea.

Today Pakistan is home to the biggest earth-filled dam in the world at Tarbela, just north of Islamabad, and more than 150 others classed as “large”.

With more than 30 percent of its power coming from hydro-electric sources, such structures are also crucial to help alleviate a chronic energy crisis which has put a brake on industrial productivity.

But a campaign for non-structural measures to contain flooding is gradually gaining ground – with proponents arguing that man-made interventions can, counter-intuitively, exacerbate the floods.

There are two major arguments – the build up of sediment in a dam shortens its useful lifespan, while the slowing of rivers due to structures mean that silt accumulates, decreasing their capacity.

Kaisar Bengali, a career technocrat who advises the chief minister of Balochistan province, said: “Dams create floods, dams don’t prevent floods.

“When the floods occur, if you have a storage area you can store the water in that area. Dams have a reservoir so they create a lake. Barrages divert the water into canals. They don’t have a reservoir.

“But they don’t just block water, they block silt as well and as a result the river bed rises. So in 2010 the water that passed through the Indus was less that in 1976 yet it created more flooding because the river had risen 6-7 feet.”

A 2000 research paper commission by conservation group WWF that looked at various countries warned of similar consequences and further noted the drainage of wetlands as well as deforestation associated with dams led to a loss of natural sponges.

Decisions on whether to release water are also subject to opposing concerns – dam managers may seek to keep reservoirs full for energy generation, whereas an early release could lessen flood impacts.

Mushtaq Gaadi, a water activist and academic at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam university, noted that some of this year’s worst flooding occurred in the Chenab river, where a key structure has lost significant discharge capacity due to the build-up of sediment.

“The most important and critical infrastructure at Chenab is Trimmu (barrage) which was constructed during the British era.

“Its discharge capacity has been drastically reduced. It was not capable of discharging more than 600,000 cusecs. Mainly due to the rising of the river bed level,” due to silting.

Dams and barrages are difficult and expensive to de-silt and maintain, forcing Pakistan to turn to help from multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

With the World Bank’s aid, Pakistan completed its renovation of the Taunsa barrage in central Punjab province in early 2010 at a cost of 4 million – only to see an embankment upstream of the structure catastrophically fail when the floods came in August.

This year, Pakistan was again forced to blow up protective dykes to divert flood waters away from cities to less-densely populated areas – which Gaadi said was another sign of a failing strategy.

Beyond their disposition to fail, dams are also responsible for luring people into harm’s way by creating a false sense of security in areas that are naturally fertile flood zones. Many of 2014′s almost 300 deaths could have been prevented had villagers not been living in such areas, said Gaadi.

Despite the noted shortcomings, the government believes that more, not fewer dams are the solution, and has vowed to press ahead with new projects – such as the Diamer-Bhasha Dam in northern Gilgit Baltistan, projected to cost some billion.

Shafiqur Rehman, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Peshawar, said it showed a lack of long-term planning.

“First we build dykes and spend millions of rupees on them and then we blow them up and drown people to save cities or other areas,” he said.