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Pakistan appeals to British diaspora in ambitious attempt to crowdfund major dam project

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 23/11/2018 Ben Farmer
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 2, 2018.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Pool © REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Pool Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Pool

Pakistan's top judge is exhorting British Pakistanis to help build two dams, as what is thought to be an unprecedented crowdfunding attempt reached the UK.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan held a fundraising telethon from Manchester on Friday as part of a week-long visit to drum up money from Britain.

The televised push was the latest chapter in an unlikely campaign by Mian Saqib Nisar to build what would include one of the world's biggest dams, by public donation.

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Chief Justice Nisar has become a vociferous standard bearer for the project after becoming concerned about water shortages in the world's sixth most populous nation.

He has declared the project is a national patriotic duty and claimed opponents are traitors and enemies of the state. However critics claim the project is a huge folly.

Imran Khan, the country's prime minister, has backed the scheme and said he wants every overseas Pakistani to donate at least $1,000 (£780).

Pakistani celebrities including the boxer Amir Khan were on Friday due to join the Manchester telethon trying to persuade British Pakistanis to donate.

As he this week held meetings with British Pakistani parliamentarians and business leaders, the chief justice said building the Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams was imperative for Pakistan.

The Diamer Bhasha dam would block off a Himalayan valley on the upper reaches of the Indus and reach 892ft high, making it the world's sixth tallest dam. The smaller Mohmand dam would be 75 miles to the south west.

The pair are expected to cost somewhere in the region of $17bn dollars.

Yet before last night's telethon the fundraising total stood at only a tiny fraction of that, at around $60m and the target will not be reached for well over a century, according to some forecasts.

Critics also question whether such a mega dam is the answer to Pakistan's water worries.

Dr Daanish Mustafa from King's College department of geography, said the scheme was unprecedented, and could end up costing 10 per cent of the country's annual GDP.

He says there are better ways to store water, for example in underground aquifers, and shortages could be cut by better management and growing less thirsty crops.

“ [The dam] just makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.

Meanwhile, separatist militants killed four people during an unsuccessful attempt to storm a Chinese consulate, in an attack on Beijing's heavy investment in the country.

Two policemen and a father and son applying for travel documents died as three suicide attackers assaulted the mission in the port city of Karachi.

A militant group from the impoverished province of Baluchistan said it was responsible, claiming it was fighting Chinese “occupation” and exploitation of resources.

Imran Khan blamed the attack on "part of conspiracy" against China's cooperation, which will see Pakistan become a key part of Beijing's plan to build a 21st century Silk Road through Asia.

The assault was claimed by the separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) that opposes the Chinese projects linked to the so-called Belt and Road initiative in resource-rich Baluchistan.

Separatists have for decades campaigned against what they see as the unfair exploitation of resources, in particular natural gas and minerals.

China's investment includes a deep-water port at Gwadar in south Baluchistan which will give Beijing access to the Arabian Sea, and a road and rail network throughout the country.

Pakistan has long blamed India for supporting Baloch insurgents, but Delhi denounced Friday's attack.

The militants attacked with grenades and firearms trying to enter the consulate building, but failed to get inside and were killed in an hour long shoot out with police. Chinese staff inside were unharmed.

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