Ministry ‘violating’ constitution over Irsa federal member appointment

Provinces asked to furnish names of officials instead of appointing a Sindh domiciled person

November 20, 2017

ISLAMABAD - In violation of Article 270 AA of the constitution , instead of appointing a Sindh domiciled person as the federal member of Indus River System Authority (Irsa), the Ministry of Water Resources has asked all the provinces to furnish the names of high ranking irrigation officials for the federal member of the authority.

“The Ministry of Water Resources has asked all the provinces, except Sindh, to provide the names of their respective candidates for the post of Irsa member,” official sources told The Nation here Sunday. On November 15, 2017, the ministry through a letter has asked the chief secretaries of Punjab, Balochistan, KP, Federal Flood Commission chairman and Wapda chairman to provide suitable nomination, among high-ranking engineers in irrigation or related engineering field for the post of federal member Irsa (BS-21). But interestingly only two days time was given for the provision of nominations.

It is pertinent to mention here that Sindh has already provided its nomination to the federal government. In a letter to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Sindh chief minister has asked for appointing Sindh domiciled Syed Zahir Hyder as Irsa federal member, as per a decision taken by Muhsarraf government in year 2000. The Sindh chief minister’s letter reads: “As per the para 1 (c) of the decision of the competent authority, as communicated by the Chief Executive Secretariat Islamabad vide its letter No.CES U.O.No.400(134) C-1/CES/2000, future Irsa federal member will be appointed from Sindh.”

The post of the federal member has been lying vacant for last seven years, and a previous name proposed by Sindh for the post was rejected by the centre. However, official sources said that that the decision of the water resource ministry to ask for nomination from the provinces, FFC and Wapda, is against Article 270 AA of the constitution which is related to declaration and continuance of laws etc which has given constitution cover to some of the actions/orders of Musharraf. Clause 4 of the Article 270 AA of the constitution said, “All orders made, proceedings taken, appointments made, including secondments and deputations, and acts done by any authority, or by any person which were made, taken or done, or purported to have been made, taken or done, between the twelfth day of October, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine and the thirty first day of December, two thousand and three (both inclusive), in exercise of the powers derived from any authority or laws mentioned in clause (2), or in execution of or in compliance with any orders made or sentences passed by any authority in the exercise or purported exercise of powers as aforesaid, shall, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), be deemed to be valid and shall not be called in question in any court or forum on any ground whatsoever.

According to Chapter II of Indus River System Authority Act-1992, the authority consists of five members, one each to be nominated by each province and one by the federal government. As per Irsa Act, the term of office of the chairman is one year while that of a member is three years and the members are eligible for reappointment for one or more terms. The law states that the chairmanship will be based on rotations. As per the rule, in the absence of a member representing a province, the secretary and irrigation department of the province shall represent that province in Irsa . In the absence of a member nominated by the federal government, the chief engineering adviser or his nominee shall represent the federal government.

The post of the federal member has been lying vacant since 2010 and the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) chairman was representing the federation on adhoc basis. Due to the retirement of the FFC chairman in June, the charge of the federal member was handed over to a senior official of the FFC for three months, which expired in September.

The term of the Irsa chairman, who was also a Sindh member, expired on October 18 and the federal member was supposed to replace him on October 19. However, in absence of federal member, Balochistan member took over the charge of the chairmanship. On the basis of the rule of rotation, Balochistan was supposed to take over the chairmanship charge in October 2018 but since there was no representative of the federal government to take its turn, the outgoing chairman was replaced by Balochistan Member Sherzaman.