ISLAMABAD - A harsh criticism came from the opposition benches in the Senate on Tuesday for the Pakistani experts’ inability to plead the case of Pakistan in International Court of Arbitration (ICA) over trans-boundary water dispute with India however a lawmaker of the ruling PPP strongly dispelled the impression.

State Minister for Water and Power, Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi, apparently looking ignorant on the issue, also found himself in hot water to answer the queries of the opposition benches and proposed an in-camera briefing from the technical experts dealing with the case. The chair and some lawmakers as well termed the minister’s proposal insignificant, saying that short decision if the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) had become a public document and there was no need to keep the matter private.

Opposition leader, Senator Ishaq Dar, who along with Senator Mohsin Leghari was the mover of the call attention notice on water issue, termed the trans-boundary water disputes with India of gravest concern and said ICA in its partial decision, as reported by the media, had given a favourable order for India. He expressed his sorrow if Pakistan had timely built Neelum Jehlum Hydropower Project in time, which was initiated in 1989, the country would not have faced power shortage. He requested the chair that the house should be briefed about the facts.

While Senator Mohsin Leghari said the team of experts from Pakistani side pleading the case before ICA was not professional at all as compared to the Indian side and sought from the sate minister about the details expertise of the team members. He said Kamal Majidullah; a member of the team and Special Assistant to PM on Water and Agriculture Resources, was a journalist by profession and same was the position about other members. While, Raja Zafarul Haq, senior PML-N leader, viewed that India could destroy Pakistan without firing a single bullet as it was busy in constructing number of dams on rivers flowing from there towards Pakistan.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of PML-Q said that it was a fundamental and strategic issue and Pakistan had suffered a lot because of the incompetence of team who could not plead the case very well.

Sate Minister for Water and Power, Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi showed his ignorance on the expertise of the Pakistan team pursuing the case and said that impression was wrong that Pakistan lost the case and media did not portray a true picture of the case. “We won the partial decision while India lost,” he said. He proposed an in-camera briefing on the issue from the technical experts saying that some things could not be disclosed publicly. He also proposed for the constitution of a committee on the issue.

At last, Presidential  spokesman and PPP lawmaker, Farhatullah Babar came to rescue the minister and dispelled the impression that the arbitration award was a legal defeat for Pakistan.

Explaining he said that Pakistan had put two questions of legal nature before the ICA which were within its jurisdiction for determination. The Court has 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.

Farhatullah Babar said that on the second question the Court categorically stated that the Treaty did not permit 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 applies not only at Kishenganga but also for all future run-of-river hydroelectric plants according to the court award, he said.  The Award has protected Pakistan’s right of uninterrupted water flows from western rivers, he said.

On another issue, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said that all should speak with one voice on the issue of release of Dr Afia Siddique from US prison, as it was a human rights violation case. While his party colleague, Kamal Ali Agha, through his provoking remarks forced the chair to give him the floor of the house, and said that an agreement with the US on the exchange of prisoners should be signed to bring Dr Afia back in Pakistan.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had already written a letter for Dr Afia ‘s repatriation and all possible efforts would be made to bring Dr Afia back in the country. “The major hurdle is that Pakistan does not have an agreement with US on exchange on prisoners,” he said. “ We will also go for mercy petition,” he added.

The house amended the 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 twelve to nine and fifteen to twelve respectively. Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposed the amendment while the former staged a protest walkout from the house. Both the parties said that the move was aimed at establishing new committees to facilitate those lawmakers who would loose top slots in the government as a result of the dissolution of the government on March 16. Dr Babar Awan raised some legal points in connection with the amendment what he said that proper rules were not being followed to amend the rule.

The house unanimously passed the Islamabad Capital Territory Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2013, to provide for the registration, regulation and functioning of private educational institutions in Islamabad Capital Territory.  The chair referred the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (PIMS), Islamabad Bill, 2013 to the senate committee concerned after the opposition of PML-N. Senator Ishaq Dar said that his party would strongly opposed the move to change the name of an institution in the name of Quaid-e-Azam through this bill while Federal Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CAAD), Nazar Gondal said that a new university was being established and the name of the none of the institution was changed. Kamal Ali Agha of PML-Q said that they would also oppose this move of the government.

The chair deferred the 24th Constitutional Amendment aimed to establish Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province out of the Punjab for today (Wednesday) on the request of the Law Minister before the house was adjourned till 10: 30 am for Wednesday.