The 18th attempt to find oil off the coast of Karachi in Kekra-1 has failed and with it, the hopes of the public too. Data from each of the previous 17 attempts were promising and had attracted some of the biggest names in offshore drilling. Such companies do not venture to pour in millions of dollars if there is no concrete data and a fairly good chance to strike a well successfully. Officials say that even in the best of times, the success rate for successfully spudding a well is one in five, and that the latest failure does not mean there is no oil or other hydrocarbon reserves there rather it just means that it will take a little more searching to find the right pocket.
The main issue, though, is not that oil was not found in the latest four-month-long on the ground — or over water — effort. The issue is the immense political hype and the expectations attached to successfully spudding the well. Given the current economic condition of the country, the public is desperate for some good news on that front. This was thoroughly cashed in by politicos who used it as a mark of their own success. It is unclear as to what extent they know about the success rates of these things and about the decade-long history of this particular area. But if they did know about it, and they willingly hyped it, then they are to be blamed for the massive disappointment that the public feels, for making the economic abyss appear even deeper and darker.
Unfortunately, this is turning out to be a repetitive pattern with the PTI government. From its proclamations of breaking the begging bowl and retrieving money stashed abroad. Promises unfulfilled.
What the party needs to realise is that this game of smoke and mirrors to whip up a public frenzy around it will sooner or later start to cut the other way as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2019.