- The discovery that never was
The announcement that much was expected from oil explorations off the Karachi coast was made by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself. The one that the exploration was a bust, that no reserves had been discovered, and that the exploration well in question, Kekra-1, was being capped by the OGDCL with approval from joint venture partner Exxon Mobil, was left to the PM’s Petroleum and Natural Resources Special Assistant Nadeem Babar. Those who remembered the first PPP era were irresistibly reminded of then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s announcement of the discovery of oil at Dhodak in Dera Ghazi Khan district, and how that discovery petered into nothing. At least the Dhodak hullaballoo left behind a small gas processing plant there; Kekra-1 has been capped after costing about $100 million.
The PTI should stop having such extravagant pipedreams, and of solving the nation’s problems by such fortuitous interventions. Such flights of fancy waste time that could be better spent on something more useful, like actual problem-solving. The discovery of sudden oil wealth is the stuff of poor pulp fiction, and even a screenplay based on the idea would be laughed out of any self-respecting studio. It is certainly not the stuff of real-life governance. The genie in the lamp should be kept to fairy stories, not made the stuff of fantasy. The PM should not confuse dreams for the nation with dreams pure and simple.
Instead of counting chickens before they are hatched, the PTI government would do better to focus on putting together the coming Budget, and finding the resources for it from more traditional sources rather than sudden windfalls from oil-wells at the bottom of the sea. At the same time, it should realise that there is no point in using up so much energy on traditional petrochemicals, and that energy in future will come from renewable sources. Pakistan has got an abundance of sun, wind and hydroelectric potential. The kind of technological innovation needed to make oil and coal produce fewer greenhouse gases would make it easy to transform that potential into reality. That is the kind of dream that should inspire the government. It should be forward-looking rather than trying to make Dhodak come right.