Now that the Lahore High Court after weighing all the pros and cons of the matter has declared the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to be the only competent forum under the constitution to take a final decision on such gigantic projects as the Kalabagh Dam, there appears to be no reason to further delay its construction. The first feasibility report was prepared by Messer Tiptan & Hill, a world renowned agency as far back as 1953, and later at various times by no less than 200 engineers and experts from all over the world. A purely technical project like the KBD should not have been abandoned on purely political grounds especially when it had obtained the approval of the Council of Common Interests which is the only constitutional forum to deal with such matters.
Article 154 of the Constitution provides comprehensive guidelines to deal with all matters (other than the distribution of water) where the interests of federal and provincial government clash, by referring the matter to the Parliament whose decision would be final. However the disputes over water between the federal and provincial governments have been viewed more seriously under Art.155 and instead of the Parliament having the final say, the Constitution leaves it to be decided by a special commission, “consisting of such persons having special knowledge and experience in irrigation, engineering, administration, finance or law.” The intention of the framers of the constitution was that the technical matters must in all fairness be decided by persons who possess special knowledge on the subject, and not by politicians sitting in the Parliament.
It is common knowledge that the predecessors of the present ANP had used the KBD as a bargaining chip by preferring the construction of Bhasha Dam in place of KBD in exchange of its hydel royalty which was not available in the case of the latter since its power house was to be located in Punjab instead of K.P. In this background, if instead of being browbeaten by a bunch of self-seeking politicians, a Commission had been appointed by the President and his recommendations had been boldly implemented as per the requirements of the constitution, we would not have seen the state of economic depredation we find ourselves in.
To allay the fears of the smaller provinces, the government should, instead of filing reviews and appeals against the Court’s decree, appoint a commission of experts and carry out its recommendations in earnest. Politics which has already played havoc with this project must be austerely eschewed. The Court has clearly ruled that a project of national importance must not be defeated on mere perceptions of any one province.
Other than meeting the compelling need of adequate water for irrigation and overcoming the acute power crisis shattering our economy, some other factors have also left us with no option but to immediately go ahead with the construction of KBD. Among these is the recent refusal of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to further finance the Bhasha Dam. Secondly we also badly need another dam to replace Mangla and Tarbela Dams which are silting up and gradually losing their utility. Third and foremost reason is that every year India is constructing a dozen or more dams on Pakistani rivers particularly the Indus and its upper tributaries in violation of the Indus Basin Treaty, and we have done nothing about it despite loss of precious water for our irrigation, likely to cause drought and famine in the near future. Now the time has come when we should stop our parochial thinking and move forward with this project of national importance without wasting any time.
Lahore, November 30.