AFTER seeming to show no resolution over the water distribution issue, the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Sindh bilaterally managed to reach at least a temporary truce over the issue of the C-J Link Canal. Once again it was Punjab that made the concessionary move of closing this canal even though this will do irreparable damage to the crops of southern Punjabs farmers. So severe were the Sindh-Punjab differences over the water distribution issue that the Prime Minister, who had called a meeting, on Tuesday, of the two Chief Ministers, their aides and IRSA officials to sort them out, failed to make any headway. And the meeting ended with Mr Gilani holding out the vague assurance that the right of none of the provinces would be allowed to be jeopardised and that like other issues - NFC Award and 18th Amendment - the water rift would be bridged with mutual consultations and in a spirit of accommodation. Punjab, whose stand seems quite justified, put up its case with sound reasoning, presenting the record of injustice in the distribution of water that it had had to bear during the past several years. But at the end of the day it sacrificed its interests for Sindh even though the opening of the C-J canal was in no way taking away any of Sindhs share of water. According to IRSA sources, the C-J canal is getting 10,000 cusecs of water out of the Punjab share, and the provisions of the 1991 Water Accord are not being violated. The canal serves southern Punjab where agricultural land stands parched, there is an acute shortage of even drinking water and the precious cotton crop is in grave danger of being wasted unless adequate supplies are made available. One would expect that the countrywide water scarcity that has plagued Pakistan for some years past, rendered large tracts of fertile land into desert vastness and severely affected legitimate domestic and industrial uses, should have awakened the parochial-minded politicians to the realisation that the problem has to be resolved keeping in view the overall national interest. However, the pity is that we, after 63 years of independence, are still a long way off from that realisation and narrow-mindedness continues to reign supreme. The easy and highly beneficial solution in the form of constructing big reservoirs, like Kalabagh Dam, that would assure sustained, measured releases of water depending upon the seasonal requirements of different provinces, evoke feelings of jealousy about a province getting revenues on account of power generation or on the basis of some other equally flimsy grouse. Meanwhile, it seems to be becoming a national trend that every time there is an inter-provincial dispute involving Punjab as one of the parties, it is Punjab that is compelled to compromise its interests to get the issue resolved. This is unfortunate as in the case of water, especially, a vital interest of southern Punjab has been sacrificed. It is also sad to see that the other provinces refuse to reciprocate Punjabs gestures on critical issues such as Kalabagh Dam. It is time for the smaller provinces to realise that provincial harmony and development can only come if there is a genuine mutuality of give and take. The present compromise on the C-J Link Canal is merely a temporary measure and one hopes that the ground realities will have a sobering effect and help resolve the issue of water distribution. The smaller provinces need to come round to the building of a dam at the ideally suited site of Kalabagh that would significantly remove both water and power shortages.