Islamabad: Pakistan’s most senior judge is exhorting British Pakistanis to help build two dams, in what is thought to be an unprecedented crowdfunding attempt.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan held a fundraising telethon from Manchester on Friday night 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 Saqib Nisar to build what would include one of the world’s biggest dams by public donation. 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 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 (Dh3,670). Pakistani celebrities including Amir Khan, the boxer, were yesterday due to join the Manchester telethon trying to persuade British Pakistanis to donate.

After meetings with British Pakistani parliamentarians and business leaders, the chief justice said building the dams was imperative for Pakistan. The Diamer Bhasha dam would block off a Himalayan valley on the upper reaches of the Indus and reach 270 metres, making it the world’s sixth tallest dam. The smaller Mohmand dam would be 120 kilometres to the south west. The pair are expected to cost somewhere in the region of $17 billion (£13.2 billion).

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

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 said there were 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 Karachi, in an attack protesting at 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.