As far as warnings go, Khawaj Asif’s was as clear as it can be. The Federal Minister of Water and Power on Monday reasserted the impending water shortage and the need to take immediate measures for it. Yet in the same address, immediately following this warning, he asked India to honour the Indus Waters Treaty. Surely, being the federal minister for water and power he has the right to talk about all things under his purview, and his words will be considered an authority. Yet, the fact remains that the Indus Water Treaty and water shortage are two distinct problems, with very little practical co-relation. Yet Mr Asif has deliberately chosen to present the issue in such a way that the issues become muddled and the blame is eventually deflected away from the government. Mr Asif’s stance in fact is one mirrored by the government of late; blame India, do nothing ourselves.
That does not mean India is not violating the Indus Water Treaty; several previous projects by India have been legally challenged, and have been approved by the arbitration panel after design modifications to the projects. There are several existing projects where India is exceeding its storage quota and building dams with a potential to stop water flow. Potential, that is the key word. So far our issues with India are over design, not actual water aggression. Our shortage is a result of mismanagement and lack of political will. The treaty’s success depends on both parties to the treaty to fulfil their obligations; if India as the upper riparian state has the obligation to let water flow unimpeded, Pakistan as the lower riparian state has the responsibility to store water and minimize wastage. While Pakistan lay bickering amongst each other, India has built 63 large dams in the northern areas; where we have only two on the whole Indus. The Minister’s words should be heeded, and construction of dams should be our top priority. We need to legally enforce the treaty, but the water shortage lies at our doorstep.