In June 2015 some 1,200 people died from the effects of an extreme heatwave in Pakistan. Temperatures reached 44 degrees Centigrade (111o Fahrenheit) and the scenes of suffering were heart-rending. As CNN reported: «At the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre in Sindh’s capital, Karachi, heat stroke victims are wheeled in daily, swelling the numbers well beyond capacity. The overwhelmed doctors and nurses do what they can... Family members tend to many of the patients, wiping their brows with sponges and keeping them cool with wet, grimy towels... At the Edhi morgue, the largest still operating in Karachi, the picture is even more dismal... Daily power outages mean the cold storage unit that houses bodies is hot and sticky. The dead, it seems, are denied the dignity they deserve».
There was no electricity, so ordinary people could not even operate a fan — the cheapest and most basic cooling device — to relieve their dreadful sweating wretchedness. Pakistan reels helplessly from the heat because electricity is not available for as much as 22 hours a day which in Pakistani style is called «load-shedding». (The rich have generators and the parliament building is air-conditioned. Misery is not shared throughout the country.) It is difficult to describe how hideously miserable it is to be so blisteringly, agonisingly, unbearably hot and unable to do anything — anything at all — to cool down by even a couple of degrees.
It is almost literally Hell on Earth.
Naturally, Pakistan is trying to generate more electricity. China is building another two nuclear plants to add to the two already operating, but they will take years to complete. For environmental reasons Pakistan’s enormous coal deposits are not used for power generation, and the solution is establishment of more gas-fuelled power plants. These would rely on completion of a pipeline from Iran, which, as the Wall Street Journal reported in April «would take two years to build [and] would eventually supply Pakistan with enough gas to fuel 4,500 megawatts of electricity generation — almost as much as the country’s entire current electricity shortfall».
It would have been sensible for Pakistan to have completed the pipeline from Iran many years ago because it would have benefited the economy as well as improving people’s lives beyond measure. The country would be a vastly better place if homes and shops and farms and markets and factories could function properly all the time instead of for a few hours a day. It’s a horrible situation.
The problem is that completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is forbidden by the United States. The Iranians have built the line right up to the border with Pakistan but can’t go any further into Pakistan because of US sanctions.
In March 2012, when present US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she «warned that such a project would involve US sanctions and would undermine Pakistan's «already shaky» economy. She declared that «As we are ratcheting up pressure on Iran, it seems somewhat inexplicable that Pakistan would be trying to negotiate a pipeline».
It isn’t «inexplicable» that Pakistan wants to build a pipeline to buy gas to generate electricity to improve the lives of its people. It would not «undermine» Pakistan’s economy: it would improve it enormously. The pipeline is essential to Pakistan’s survival.
Exactly a year after Clinton’s threats the BBC explained what was stopping construction of the pipeline that would solve Pakistan’s power crisis and quoted «State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland» — the person who used obscene language in speaking of the European Union’s attitude to the US-supported coup in Ukraine and was photographed handing out sandwiches and cookies to rebels in Kiev’s Maidan Square in December 2013.
It seems that Ms Nuland’s leitmotifs are sanctions and sandwiches, but she hasn’t handed out any goodies in Pakistan because she does not approve of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline that would alleviate the suffering of Pakistan’s citizens and permit its industries to operate effectively. Economic and social development in Pakistan mean nothing to her, and she declared in March 2013 that «If this deal is finalised for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act. We’ve made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts».
The following month the Voice of America (VOA) reported Ms Nuland as announcing that «We have serious concerns if this [pipeline] project actually goes forward that the Iran Sanctions Act would be triggered. We’ve been straight-up with the Pakistanis about these concerns. This pipeline project — if, as I said — if it actually goes forward — we’ve seen that promise many times — [it] would take Pakistan in the wrong direction».
But the right direction, as admitted by even VOA (fully funded by the US government), is for the project to go forward to «help reduce Pakistan's crushing energy deficit». It is possible that the energy crisis in Pakistan could destroy its economy, and it would be reasonable to imagine that the country is being given as much support as possible by foreign governments that have Pakistan’s interests at heart.
China is helping enormously, by constructing power plants and helping to build the Iran Pakistan pipeline, but as we’ve seen that project can’t be completed because of US-imposed bans on trade with Iran that have been expanding since 1979.
These petulant prohibitions have nothing whatever to do with Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program which has attracted specific UN sanctions : they are designed inflict pain and misery on the people of Iran in the hope that they will rebel against their government, just as it has been hoped by Washington for fifty years that sanctions on Cuba would encourage its citizens to overthrow their leader. It was also expected that a decade of sanctions on Iraq would result in the downfall of Saddam Hussein, but that didn’t work, so the US invaded and destroyed the country and set the region’s progress back by a century.
America’s spiteful sanctions on Iraq resulted in wretchedness, despair and death for countless millions but were enthusiastically supported by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who in a 1996 CBS television interview was told that «We have heard that half a million children have died» in Iraq because of US sanctions. Then the interviewer made the point that «I mean : that's more children than died in Hiroshima,» and asked directly «is the price worth it?» Infamously and without a shred of pity Albright declared that «we think the price is worth it».
Her successors in vicious prosecution of child-killing sanctions on countries of which they disapprove are Victoria Nuland and Hillary Clinton who also think the price of other people’s suffering is «worth it». One of the many problems with this morally flawed punishment is that the price of sanctions on Iran is being paid by countless millions of totally innocent people in Pakistan. New-born babies gasp and die from heat because there is no air-conditioning — and «even the dead are denied the dignity they deserve».
Sanctions rarely work. But that doesn’t stop them being imposed by spiteful and malevolent people.