Decision on Kishanganga Dam: government urged to neutralise India’s move to ‘block water’

The government came under severe criticism in the Senate on Tuesday for losing a case against India in International Court of Arbitration, calling for swift action to neutralise India’s move to block Pakistan waters. Opposition lawmakers accused Pakistan’s experts pleading the case of failure, saying their incompetence resulted in losing an important case. However, a PPP lawmaker blatantly defended the experts. 

Pakistan lost the case against India for the construction of 330-megawatts Kishanganga power project in the International Court of Arbitration last week. This will result in a reduction in water supply by as much as 20 percent, lowering the power generation capacity of the 975MW Neelum-Jhelum power project on the same river downstream, near Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir. 

The government’s incompetence was further exposed when State Minister for Water and Power Tasneem Qureshi failed to answer questions posed by the opposition lawmakers. The junior minster tried to deflect opposition’s criticism by floating a proposal to hold a secret briefing by technical experts dealing with the case. The proposal was turned down by lawmakers and the chair, who said that the court had already ruled and there was no need for secrecy. 

Leader of opposition in Senate Ishaq Dar and Senator Mohsin Leghari moved a call-attention notice on the water issue. Criticising Pakistan’s inaction, Dar said that the project had been intiated in 1989, and if the then government had acted in a timely manner, Pakistan would not have been facing an acute power shortage. Senator Mohsin Leghari criticised Pakistani experts pleading the case and urged the state minister to provide names of experts who represented Pakistan. 

He said Kamal Majidullah; a member of the team and special assistant to PM on water and agriculture resources, was a journalist and other members were also unqualified. Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N feared that if this trend of dam building continued, India could “destroy Pakistan without firing a single bullet”. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed of PML-Q said that defending Pakistan water rights was a fundamental and strategic issue and Pakistan had suffered a lot because of the incompetence of its team. 

Lawmakers were furious when Tasnim Qureshi claimed: “We won the partial decision while India lost.” Farhatullah Babar came to the rescue of the state minister and dispelled the impression that the arbitration award was a defeat for Pakistan. Babar said that Pakistan had put two questions before the ICA which were within its jurisdiction for determination, adding the court had given its conclusive determination on one question while on the second the “final award will be given later in December”. 

The two questions, he said, were first whether India’s proposed diversion of water from Kishenganga into another tributary breached the Indus Water Treaty and second if such a diversion was allowed whether there were limits on the quantum of water diversion. 

Babar said that on the second question the court categorically stated that the treaty did not permit a reduction below dead storage of the water level in the reservoirs of run-of-river plants on the Western Rivers and India could not even flush water to such an extent that would deplete its dead storage level. This condition applied not only for Kishenganga but also for all future run-of-river hydroelectric plants according to the court award, he said, adding the award has protected Pakistan’s right of uninterrupted water flows from western rivers. 

FORGOTTEN DR AFIA Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed urged the government to press the US for the release of Dr Afia Siddiqui. Senator Kamal Ali Agha said: “Agreement with the US on the exchange of prisoners should be signed to bring (Dr) Afia back.” In response, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that he had already written a letter for Dr Afia’s release and all possible efforts would be made to bring her back. 

RULES AMENDMENT The house amended Rule 165, sub-rule (1) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate that decreased the minimum and maximum number of lawmakers in each house standing committee from 13 to nine and 15 to 12, respectively. 

ANP and PML-N opposed the amendment while the former staged a walk out from the house in protest. They were of the view that the amendment was aimed at establishing new committees to facilitate lawmakers losing government posts after March 16 when assemblies would be dissolved. 

BILL PASSED The house unanimously passed ‘Islamabad Capital Territory Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2013. The chair also referred Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (PIMS), Islamabad Bill, 2013 to the committee concerned after Senator Dar said that his party would oppose the move to change the name of an institution name after the Quaid-i-Azam while Federal Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CAAD) Nazar Gondal said that a new university was being established and name of no institution was being changed. The chair deferred the 24th Constitutional Amendment aimed at establishing Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab (BJP) province till Wednesday (today) on the request of the law minister. 

The house was adjourned to meet on Wednesday at 10:30am. 

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013

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